Manchester Art Gallery

'Now for the Painter' (Rope) - Passengers Going on Board

Object description

When Turner exhibited the painting, its title was part of an elaborate joke between himself and some friends. The word 'painter' being used either for the artist or for the guide rope that the sailor is throwing to secure the boat whilst passengers go aboard. The subtitle refers to the port of Calais on the horizon. A maritime scene depicted on a windy day and choppy seas. In the centre foreground of the composition are two boats: the smaller and nearer of the boats carries a group of five figures and a large travelling chest, and includes the figure of a woman sheltering a baby, a male figure lowering the sail, and the helmsman with a red cap standing up whilst holding the rudder, hailing the boat that they are approaching; the second and larger boat bears a pennant inscribed 'PAS DE CALAIS' and its deck is crowded with sixteen figures of sailors and passengers - one of the sailors on far left prepares to throw the 'painter' rope over to the small boat. In the background, to the left and beyond a buoy, is a group of boats; to the right, in the direction of the port of Calais, sails a lone boat. On the right horizon is the line of the French coast. The sky is predominantly cloudy with a strip of blue across the top edge.

Display label

'Now for the Painter' (Rope) - Passengers Going on Board 1827 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Oil on canvas Here Turner captures the movement of the sea in brilliant colours and broken brushstokes. He also conveys its power by placing the viewer close to the action where we can empathise with the fear and excitement of the passengers. A man at the bow of the larger boat is about to throw a 'painter' or rope to the small boat to guide it alongside. It’s a tense moment. Human vulnerability was a recurring theme in Turner’s work and was often expressed through turbulent seascapes. He was inspired by Dutch marine artists of the 1600s and 1700s whose work can be seen in Gallery 11. However, the Dutch views are epic and impersonal compared to the particular human drama we see here. When this painting was exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition in 1857, a commentator wrote: See how they [the waves] bubble and glisten and reflect to their utmost depths – how the spray tosses and twinkles in the bright light! Turner used transparent oil glazes to achieve these effects. Mr Frederick John Nettlefold gift 1947.507