The Departure of the Fleet by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). Exhibited 1850. Oil on canvas, 899 x 1203 mm. Courtesy of Tate Britain (Accession no. NO0554. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856). Click on image to enlarge it.

Commentary from Tate Britain Online (2004)

The Departure of the Fleet is one of four paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1850. A visitor to Turner’s studio stated that the artist ‘went from one to the other, first painting upon one, touching on the next and so on, in rotation’.

The artist finished the canvas on the walls of the RA, and curators and conservators have tried to determine which areas Turner might have adjusted at the final moment. This question is made difficult by changes in surface appearance over time. Could the three areas of red paint highlighted in this illustration have been added on Varnishing Day?

Last modified 14 May 2016