'The Wreck Buoy' by JMW Turner Joseph Mallard William Turner, well known for his landscape paintings, was in fact a controversial painter back in his day. Now he is regarded as the painter who put landscape paintings in the spotlight. Turner studied at the Royal Academy of Art in 1789, aged 14 under the influence of Thomas Malton. Turner was just 15 years old when he first exhibited, this was at the Royal Academy Summer exhibition with his first watercolour. The Wreck Buoy was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1849, with the Art Journal stating that it was “the best of Turner’s late productions”. Many paintings by Turner show nautical disasters and stormy scenes. The Wreck Buoy is no different. his painting is an illustration of Turner's love of the sea, and also his acknowledgement of the power of the ocean as well. The rainbow and light in the painting depict a new beginning, or hope for the future. In this painting, Turner makes us see the light and the rainbow first, and then leads us towards the dark and stormy areas of possible disaster. Quite pessimistic when you think about it really! Looking at the painting, the eye is drawn initially to the rainbow, then to the ships bathed in the light. The eye is then led down towards the sailors in a large rowing boat and finally down to the two buoys. It makes you wonder what are the sailors doing out there? Have they been shipwrecked? Did they ignore the warning signs of the buoys? Whatever the meaning of the painting, John Ruskin wrote that in 1856 that:
The Wreck Buoy was purchased by George Holt in 1888 for £1,837. His daughter Emma bequeathed it (plus around 150 other paintings) and Sudley House to the people of Liverpool on her death in 1944. If you would like to find out more about JMW Turner's 'The Wreck Buoy', come along to a free talk on Tuesday 14 February at 1pm.
“…. the last oil picture which he painted, before his noble hand forgot its cunning, was the Wreck-buoy”