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Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Evening Star

Key facts
Full title The Evening Star
Artist Joseph Mallord William Turner
Artist dates 1775 - 1851
Date made about 1830
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 91.1 × 122.6 cm
Acquisition credit Turner Bequest, 1856
Inventory number NG1991
Location Room 34
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Evening Star
Joseph Mallord William Turner

In contrast to many of Turner’s paintings – often full of activity, grand architectural settings, dramatic weather and dazzling effects of colour and light – this painting looks almost empty. The only figure is a barely visible young boy with a shrimping net over his shoulder, who wades in from the shoreline to be greeted by a small leaping dog. The ghostly trace of a boat to the right of centre, which has been painted over, suggests that Turner decided to emphasise the vastness of the sky and sea rather than human industry.

The title, The Evening Star, was not Turner’s, but was given to the painting decades later because of the presence of a star – a tiny dab of thick white paint. Although originally thought to be unfinished, Turner may actually have been satisfied with the painting’s evocation of a particular moment and not seen the need for additional work on it.

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