Dortdrecht: The Dort Packet-Boat from Rotterdam Becalmed, J.M.W. Turner
In the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, which has both a zoomable and downloadable image on their site. There is also a zoomable image on Google Art Project, and a downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons.
This was painted in 1818, just a few years before Turner’s work would take on the fiery glowing light for which he is best known.
There is obvious influence here, both in approach and subject matter, to one of the Dutch painters Turner most admired, Aelbert Cuyp — in particular, the latter painter’s famous take on the subject of a packet-boat in the same harbor, Maas at Dortrecht.
A packet-boat is a domestic carrier of freight and passengers that plies a set route on a regular schedule. Here, Turner portrays one in the Dordrecht (“Dort” to the locals) harbor, its sails set but without a breeze to fill them. He has used the calm water to advantage, fascinating our gaze with a range of reflections.
One of the things I also love about Turner’s harbor scenes is his wonderfully subtle rendering of distant, atmospherically muted cityscapes.