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Turner’s hallmark luminescent colors—reds and yellows thickly laid over the blue of the sky—glow over a stormy sea. The weather is changing from one side of the painting to another, and the waves are whipping up. Daggers of light pierce the clouds.
The next noticeable feature is in the middle ground: a distance away is a ship, its sails tied up in anticipation of a storm. The masts are red as if painted with blood. After these initial impressions, the horror of the painting becomes apparent: in the lower right corner of the foreground is a leg, bound in chains. Fish and sea monsters swim in the churning water among floating bodies. The painting suddenly is not a gorgeous rendition of a glowing sunset but is rather a murder scene--one so close in the foreground that the viewer is almost a participant.
The painting’s title reveals the cargo of the ship: human life. The Slave Ship is based on actual events that occurred sixty years before Turner painted the work. In 1781, in anticipation of bad weather, the captain of the overloaded slave ship Zong ordered more than one hundred slaves to be thrown overboard. If a slave was lost at sea, as opposed to dying on board from brutality, disease or starvation, insurance money could be collected. Captains with profits in mind unloaded the dead and dying into the oceans simply as good business practice. With darkness coming upon what looks to be a rough night, the captain of the ship in the painting has made the same decision as the captain of the Zong: to toss his human cargo overboard. In an almost nauseating swirl of colors, we see body parts. Judging by the weather, it appears that the guilty man aboard the ship in the painting is about to be punished by nature.
The Slave Ship's setting contrasts with the action to highlight the horror. Without knowing the title of the painting, we might not notice the nightmare happening just in front of us. A Boston critic said of the painting when it was first displayed there in 1899, “It is the embodiment of a giant protest, a mighty voice crying out against human oppression.”
We see the beauty and power of nature amid a horrific act. Turner was 65 years old at the time he painted this; he wasn’t experimenting anymore. This is an artist sure of his methods and his message, at a time when he was producing his strongest work. John Ruskin, one of Turner’s critics and the first owner of The Slave Ship wrote: “If I were reduced to rest Turner’s immortality upon any single work, I should choose this.”
Color and short brush strokes move the eye around The Slave Ship quickly. The perspective is created by the calm sweep of clouds around the far-away sun and ship in the background, and the ship’s wake becomes smaller in the distance. The smaller brushstrokes and more defined shapes help bring the chaos and violence to the foreground. Arms, legs, hands, and chains in the ship’s wake in the foreground are the clearest lines in the painting; their sharp lines bring them forward, creating depth. Part of the power of this painting comes from this contrast created in the wide perspective: the tumultuous activity in the foreground layered over the peaceful background.
As always, Turner’s use of color is masterful. In his paintings skies glow and areas of brightness dissolve into the forms they illuminate. His contemporary John Constable said that Turner “painted with tinted steam.” Some of his critics thought his later painting style shown in The Slave Ship and The Blue Rigi were a sign of dementia and didn’t appreciate the airy dreaminess Turner depicted.
Because of his pioneering techniques and wide influence, he is often described as one of the greatest painters of the nineteenth century.
The Slave Ship is currently in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Real Oil Paints, Real Brushes, Real Artists, Real Art. The Certificate of Authenticity which arrives with every painting provides an assurance and verifies the authenticity of the hand painted fine art reproduction you purchased. Each oil painting is created by hand using only the finest canvas and oil paints available.
Important Notes About Your Painting:
If you have any request to alter your reproduction of The Slave Ship 1840, you must email us after placing your order and we'll have an artist contact you. If you have another image of The Slave Ship 1840 that you would like the artist to work from, please include it as an attachment. Otherwise, we will reproduce the above image for you exactly as it is.
Free shipping is included in the price of the painting. Once the painting is ready and dry enough to ship, we will roll it and ship it in a sturdy cardboard tube.
We always ship express via courier to ensure your order reaches you as soon as possible - normally within three business days. The total delivery time from the moment you place your order until the package is delivered to your door is normally between three to four weeks.
If, in the unlikely event you were dissatisfied with the painting after reviewing it in person, it can be returned for a full refund for up to 365 days after delivery.
When you receive the painting; you are free to return it for more revisions or else for a full refund minus our actual shipping cost -- which is, on average, $25 per painting.
1st Art Gallery provides a full warranty covering manufacturing and material defects for paintings purchased from our website. The warranty covers damage for normal use. Damage caused by incidents such as accidents or inappropriate use are not covered.
Depending on the degree of damage to the warranted painting, it will either be repaired or replaced. This warranty service is provided free of charge.
When purchasing a painting on its own, it will arrive rolled inside a secure tube with an extra 1.5" of white canvas on all sides so you can easily frame it in any local frame shop.
You may choose to purchase your painting framed, in which case, it will arrive "ready to hang". We offer more than 20 beautiful models, all hand finished and expertly assembled by our experienced framers.
Note that for safety reasons we can only frame up to a certain size. Once the maximum size is reached the framing option is automatically disabled.
If you are planning to frame your painting yourself,
use an existing frame, or frame it locally, you may choose to order your painting with a stretching service,
meaning that it will arrive mounted on wooden bars.
If you're considering not framing your painting at all, you may opt for a Gallery Wrap. The term Gallery Wrap refers to the way the canvas is stretched, which is by wrapping it around thick stretcher bars, about 1.5 inch thick, with the canvas being secured to the back rather than the sides of those bars.
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