Recent Acquisitions - 8 of 12

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Off Ramsgate by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner
English, 1775–1851
Off Ramsgate
c. 1840
Oil on canvas
12 1/2 x 19 1/4 in. (31.8 x 48.9 cm)
Gift of the Manton Foundation in memory of Sir Edwin and Lady Manton, 2007

The sea was a constant source of inspiration for Turner. Mutable, dangerous waves provided the perfect visual metaphor (and actual setting) for some of the most dramatic events of the nineteenth century: shipwrecks, naval battles, and the slave trade appear in some of Turner’s most profound oils and watercolors. Indeed, for all its power and unpredictability, the sea was an ideal subject with which to experiment, to which Turner could apply his innovative use of color and texture to make luminous, romantic works of groundbreaking originality. As his career progressed, Turner’s style became more expressive and nearly abstract. The specificity of his earlier art gave way to paintings that were less about representing particular locations or events and more about capturing a mood or, as the critic John Ruskin (1819–1900) put it, “the conveyance of a feeling.” While the precise site represented in this work has been debated, the painting’s lack of refined detail and loose brushwork suggest that Turner was not concerned with exactitude, but interested in evoking the sand, spray, and salt one feels, sees, and tastes on a windy seaside day. Off Ramsgate is one of 232 oil paintings, watercolors, chalk drawings, and prints given to the Clark by the Manton Foundation in 2007. Assembled by Sir Edwin A. G. Manton (1909–2005), a business leader and arts patron, and his wife Florence, Lady Manton, the Manton Collection features works by Constable, J. M. W. Turner, Thomas Gainsborough, and other leading British artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. With its in-depth focus on landscape pictures, the Manton Collection reflects Sir Edwin’s love of his native England, and represents the most significant gift to the Clark since its founding in 1955.