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“Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth” by J. M. W. Turner

"Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth" by J.M.W. Turner

“Snow Storm” by J.M.W. Turner

“Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth” by J.M.W. Turner depicts a paddle steamer caught in a snowstorm.

Turner was unrivaled in painting the natural world untamed by humanity and exploring the effects of the elements and the battle of the forces of nature.

This painting represents Turner’s later style with tints and shades of colors, painted in different layers, the brushstrokes adding texture to the canvas.

The pale silvery light that surrounds the boat creates a focal point, drawing the viewer into the painting. The smoke from the steamboat spreads out over the sky, creating abstract shapes of the same quality as the waves.

An inscription on the painting states that “The Author was in this Storm on the Night the “Ariel” left Harwich.” Turner later recounted a story about the background of the painting:

“I did not paint it to be understood,
but I wished to show what such a scene was like;
I got the sailors to lash me to the mast to observe it;
I was lashed for four hours,
and I did not expect to escape,
but I felt bound to record it if I did.”

Turner was 67 years old at the time, and this inscription allows us to understand the scene and the ferocity of nature better. Many contemporary critics panned it, but John Ruskin commented that it was:

“one of the very grandest statements of sea-motion,
mist and light,
that has ever been put on canvas”.

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner, later more commonly called J. M. W. Turner, entered the Royal Academy of Art in 1789, aged 14, and his first watercolor was accepted for the Royal Academy summer exhibition of 1790 when Turner was 15.

From a young art student trained in executing topographical watercolors, he became one of the most original artists of his time.

Turner was a Romantic painter, printmaker, and watercolorist, today known for his vivid coloration, imaginative landscapes, and turbulent marine paintings.

As a private, eccentric, and reclusive figure, Turner was controversial throughout his career. He left over 2,000 paintings and 19,000 drawings and sketches.

Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth

  • Title:                Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth
  • Full Title:         Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth Making Signals in Shallow Water, and going by the Lead. The Author was in this Storm on the Night the “Ariel” left Harwich.
  • Artist:              J.M.W. Turner
  • Year:                1842
  • Medium:         Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions     91 cm × 122 cm (36 in × 48 in)
  • Museum:        Tate Britain

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Turner’s Snowstorm

A Virtual Tour of Tate Britain

‘Snow Storm – Steam Boat’ by JMW Turner

J. M. W. Turner Quotes


“To select, combine, and concentrate that which is beautiful in nature and admirable in art is as much the business of the landscape painter in his line as in the other departments of art.”


“I have no secret but hard work. This is a secret that many never learn, and they don’t succeed because they don’t learn it. Labor is the genius that changes the world from ugliness to beauty and the great curse to a great blessing.”


“I don’t paint so that people will understand me; I paint to show what a particular scene looks like.”


“It is necessary to mark the greater from, the lesser truth: namely, the larger and more liberal idea of nature from the comparatively narrow and confined; namely that which addresses itself to the imagination from that which is solely addressed to the eye.”


“It is only when we are no longer fearful that we begin to create.”


“If I could find anything blacker than black, I’d use it.”


There’s a sketch at every turn.


“I did not paint… to be understood. I wished to show what such a scene was like.”


“Painting can never show her nose in company with architecture but to have it snubbed.”


Turner, a Vanguard Visionary


“I know of no genius but the genius of hard work.”
– J. M. W. Turner


Photo Credit: 1) J. M. W. Turner [Public domain]

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