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Joseph Mallord William Turner, Sun Rising through Vapour

Key facts
Full title Sun rising through Vapour: Fishermen cleaning and selling Fish
Artist Joseph Mallord William Turner
Artist dates 1775 - 1851
Date made before 1807
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 134 × 179.5 cm
Acquisition credit Turner Bequest, 1856
Inventory number NG479
Location Room 36
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Sun Rising through Vapour
Joseph Mallord William Turner

It is low tide in the early morning and fishermen unload their catch from a boat beached high and dry on the shore. Some people enjoy a meal. Others prepare the catch for sale. This human activity contrasts with the stillness of the glassy sea which, like a mirror, reflects the hazy sunlight. The pale yellow sun is not yet hot enough to burn off the sea mist – the ‘vapour’ referred to in the picture’s title – which gives the large warships in the background an almost ghostly aura.

As a study of a calm, smooth sea, this picture was a departure from the wild storms of Turner’s previous marine paintings. The boats and figures recall the work of Dutch painters, an influence acknowledged by the picture’s later title, Dutch Boats, when it was exhibited in Turner’s own gallery in 1810.

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