J.M.W. TURNER R.A.
A Sunset, perhaps off Margate, with a Mackerel Shoal
Sir Charles Robinson by 1902
Professor Charles Eliot Norton (the first Professor of Art at Harvard)
Captain Augustine Fitzgerald by April 1923
Lillian St. George
Private Collection, UK
Agnew's, Annual Watercolour Exhibition, 1920 and 1923 and 1992
National Gallery, London, Making & Meaning, Turner; The Fighting Temeraire, 1995, no.45
National Gallery of Art, Washington, J.M.W. Turner, October 2007 - January 2008, no141
Dallas Museum of Art, J.M.W.Turner, February - May 2008, no.141
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, J.M.W.Turner, June - September 2008, no.141
John Ruskin, Works, XIII, p.570, no.18
Edward Yardley, 'A Margate Sketchbook Re-assembled?', Turner Studies, vol.4, no.2, Winter 1984, p.54
Judy Egerton, Making & Meaning, Turner; The Fighting Temeraire, 1995, p.66, fig. 45
Ian Warrell, J.M.W. Turner, 2007, p.197, fig. 141
Timothy Wilcox, Turner and His Contemporaries: The Hickman Bacon Collection, 2012, p.52
This exceptional late Turner watercolour (recently exhibited at both the National Gallery, London and the National Gallery of Art, Washington) with its striking sunset is clearly a record of a specific natural phenomenon. The mackerel are shoaling close in shore, probably driven in to the shallows by predators. They are in characteristically large numbers, causing the water to 'boil' in the middle distance, while further away they are sending spray in to the air. In the foreground, some fish have jumped clear out of the water in an attempt to reach the safety of deeper pools.
The mood of this painting is both meditative and startling: an intense blood red sunset casting its rays over a scene of drama ; yet as we step back from the composition we are allowed to feel a sense of calm and grandeur.
This watercolour exemplifies Turner's ability to point to broader subliminal themes through the medium of a singular and intensely observed natural event.