Fishermen at Sea

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Fishermen at Sea, 1796, the first oil painting by J. M. W. Turner to be exhibited at the Royal Academy, in 1796

Fishermen at Sea, sometimes known as the Cholmeley Sea Piece, is an early oil painting by English artist J. M. W. Turner. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1796 and has been owned by the Tate Gallery since 1972. The painting measures 36 by 48.125 inches (91.44 cm × 122.24 cm). It depicts a moonlit view of fishermen on rough seas near the Needles, of the Isle of Wight. It juxtaposes the fragility of human life, represented by the small boat with its flickering lamp, and the sublime power of nature, represented by the dark clouded sky, the wide sea, and the threatening rocks in the background. The cold light of the Moon at night contrasts with the warmer glow of the fishermen's lantern.[1] Years later, Turner made a similar sketch, Moonlight at Sea (The Needles), c.1818, as an example of marine art for his Liber Studiorum.

The work shows strong influence from the work of marine artists such as Claude Joseph Vernet, Philip James de Loutherbourg, Peter Monamy and Francis Swaine, and the intimate nocturnal scenes of Joseph Wright of Derby.[2] The image was praised by contemporary critics and founded Turner's reputation, as both an oil painter and a painter of maritime scenes.[3] Art historian Andrew Wilton has commented that the image: "Is a summary of all that had been said about the sea by the artists of the 18th century."[4]

According to Walter Thornbury, the work was sold to General Stewart for £10. The painting was acquired by Sir Henry Charles Englefield; after his death in 1822, it was sold at Christie's on 8 March 1823, as View of the Needles, with the effect of Moon and Fire Light. It was bought by Englefield's nephew Francis Cholmeley, and it remained in the Cholmeley family for nearly 150 years, displayed at Brandsby Hall, and it became known as the Cholmeley Sea Piece. It was loaned regularly to the Tate Gallery from 1931, and sold to the Tate Gallery in 1972 by Francis William Alfred Fairfax-Cholmeley, with finance from the Beatrice Lizzie Benson Fund.


  1. ^ Butlin, Martin; Joll, Evelyn (1984). The paintings of J.M.W. Turner (Rev. ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-03276-5.
  2. ^ Warrell, Ian (2007). J.M.W. Turner. London: Tate Publishing. p. 28.
  3. ^ Wilton, Andrew (2006). Turner in his time (New ed.). London: Thames & Hudson. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-500-23830-1.
  4. ^ Wilton, Andrew (2006). Turner in his time (New ed.). London: Thames & Hudson. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-500-23830-1.

External links[edit]