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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Fighting Temeraire Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up, from 1838, is the most famous painting ever produced by JMW Turner. It includes all of the signature elements of the artist's style such as an enchanting use of light and an expressive use of form.

This painting was to return Turner to the status of artist-hero, at least from the view of the British press, having fallen out of favour in the preceding years. It was a universally appreciated piece, which can be considered a rarity for any artist in history. The artist's approach of expressive strokes as part of his Romanticist approach could upset some of the more traditional art critics, but for some reason this painting managed to please everyone, right across the board. Indeed, many in the present day, viewing it for the very first time, would consider its style relatively modern in appearance. The use of colour and light will remind many of the Impressionists, some of whom were inspired by Turner's own paintings. There are also elements that remind us of later British landscape painters, taking the influence from European artists' use of light and colour and combining it with the beauty of the English countryside and seaside.

Detailed, large resolution photograph of The Fighting Temeraire

The artist was delighted with the final artwork, eventually deciding not to sell it after inviting offers for an extended period of time. It serves as a cornerstone within his career, a familiar contribution around which many of his other artworks can be related. Perhaps he understood its importance and considered any offers to be short of its value to him. He also would have been significantly encouraged by its critical reception, plus the way in which it seemed to better communicate his own thoughts across to the public, certainly more successfully than some of his other recent pieces. It appeared to be a perfectly balanced painting, technically correct, delivering his romantic form whilst also being able to speak directly to those of all levels of society. A delicate balance had finally been achieved by the artist. The artist even referred to it as his "darling", whilst the rest of his paintings was all treated as his children.

"...It brings and balances facts together: sail and steam, air and water, past and present, setting sun and new moon; it balances qualities: old age and the new, dignity and presumption, silence and noise, steadiness and urgency, the temporal and the eternal; and it balances geometrical forms: the horizontal, the vertical and the diagonal. Where these lines rush towards the setting sun, the black tug and its ghostly white charge move inexorably out into their space..."

Turner - A Life, James Hamilton

It was around this time that John Ruskin, a significant figure in the history of British art, had first met Turner, having written positively about his work for several years. The young Ruskin managed to persuade his father to buy some of his hero's works soon after this meeting, though at the time the artist was not particularly familiar with him. The Fighting Temeraire, however, remained available, technically, but still very close to the artist's heart. Eventually, he chose to remove it from sale completely. Whilst Ruskin continued to support the artist, several more established critics again turned against Turner, leaving him out of favour once more. It does seem extroardinary today to see, perhaps the UK's finest ever painter, fall in and out of favour so frequently. Of course, this can be seen in the careers of many famous artists, particularly when their styles were considered particularly modern and groundbreaking at the time.

Fighting Temeraire Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up is the full name of this painting, and it was completed by Turner in 1838. It remains one of the biggest draws to the National Gallery, London in the UK, where it is stored in the permanent collection. It is a traditional oil on canvas and it's original size stood at 91 cm by 122 cm (36 in by 48 in). JMW Turner himself gave the painting away to his nation as far back as 1851, upon his death. The Fighting Temeraire would now command an extraordinary value thanks to it's artistic qualities, the reputation of it's artist and also the importance of it generally to British art but it is highly unlikely to ever come up for sale because it is considered to important to the UK who continue to own it up to the modern day, with it held on display in the National Gallery which hosts a large number of impressive British paintings previous to the 20th century.

The full name of the painting was The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up, 1838 and it was created by the artist a year later in 1839 after considerable amounts of study and preparation work as was the way with painters of this period. Sir Henry Newbolt was to later write a poem about this very famous ship which was carefully chosen by artist Turner in the first place because of it's impressive size and style. Newbolt's poem included the sentence, "...And she's fading down the river, But in England's song for ever, She's the Fighting Temeraire..." although the painting will always be far better known than this literature piece. There are more quotes about Turner's career available here.

The video above will give you further academic views upon the career of JMW Turner as well as some content on the actual Fighting Temeraire as well. There are also many other videos available on the career of this great artist and his role with in British art and they come from a variety of sources who all have their own personal opinions which may differ considerably from one to the next. Youtube is a great place to find information on different art topics and it is always more interesting to see videos than to read long passages of text, so long as the video has been created by someone who understands the topic well and has taken the time to produce a video that takes advantage of the opportunities found with this type of media.

British art has sadly long been in the shadow of other great European countries who artists have left a greater influence on the direction of western art since the Middle Ages, which most notable early contributions coming from Italian and then Dutch and German painters. In recent times the French have also given us some important painters too, but Turner and Constable came about at a time when British art was also starting to become more innovative and exciting and this has helped these artists to remain popular up to the present day.

Fighting Temeraire is a famous oil painting by JMW Turner who was a leading British Romanticist artist and whom the contemporary arts award of the Turner Prize was named after. You can find more information in this section about this great oil painting and also see below for links to where you can buy your own copy as print reproduction from Amazon. Their store features framed Fighting Temeraire art prints and stretched canvases and we are more than happy to recommend them to yourselves having used them regularly ourselves. We still believe that Fighting Temeraire is the finest British painting of all time but there are plenty other challengers for that prestigious title.

The artist was a highly skilled British painter who impressed with both oil paintings and watercolours and he would depict chosen landscapes with both at a time when landscape painting was not appreciated by academics as much as it is now. It was painters such as Turner which helped to persuade the academics and art public alike of the technical qualities which could be found with in this genre. Turner was joined with in the British art scene who was another passionate landscape painter and again drew attention to the beauty which lies within the natural countryside of this small island nation. See The Fighting Temeraire by Turner at the top of the page.

Further Detail on the Painting and the Artist

As recently as 2005, The Fighting Temeraire was voted the greatest painting in a British art gallery, which is an incredible achievement when put up against such competitors as works by famous British artists like Stubbs, Gainsborough, Constable as well as other foreign painters who have some of their own works stored in Britain too. These include masters such as Monet and Van Gogh. In second place was John Constable's The Hay Wain, Édouard Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère was third, and The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck was fourth. It is important to note, though, that the BBC Radio programme, Today, is likely to have a somewhat mature audience and as such it was always likely that more traditional painters like Turner would do best.

JMW Turner has his own area with in a British gallery which has been titled the Turner Wing and it hosts a good selection of his finest paintings although the exact display will be rotated at different times. The works of Turner are also regularly transported around the UK in order to push art into new areas where previously there had not been great interest. Many new galleries and museums have been opened right across the country in an attempt to broaden the audience involved with British art culture and Turner paintings are regularly used to draw in visitors quickly before they are returned back to permanent collections in London.

JMW Turner's Fighting Temeraire is shown above in all it's glory and despite the age in which it was created it still suits modern tastes thanks to the artist's Romanticist style which heavily played on passion and inspiration as much as technical skills and this method rose in popularity after the impact made by the French impressionists in the mid to late 19th century. The ship itself in this seascape painting was actually called Saucy Temeraire, but it's name was altered for the title of the painting by the artist himself. The artist is believed to have adapted the time and conditions of the day in order to make the painting match his preferences rather than simply match entirely what he could see that day.

You will find images of Turner's Fighting Temeraire included with in this website and there are also links alongside them which will take you through to the Amazon Turner gallery where you can buy your own high quality reproduction prints of the artist's classic original paintings, where Fighting Temeraire is actually the most popular choice of all. The gallery offers each original in a great variety of alternative forms, to best suit your tastes. There are giclee art prints with large frames which probably best suit the style of this artist as well as stretched canvases and posters which are ideal for those with slightly smaller budgets, which is a common issue at this time.

How to Buy a Print of The Fighting Temeraire

All of the adverts included with in this website are art related and provided by Google who always try to match them to the content of the website, so some should be for art products related to artist JMW Turner who is well represented online thanks to his popularity with in the UK and America plus the prominence of his name from the Turner Prize as well as the Turner Wing which permanently displays many of his best paintings to a large international audience in London. You will find Turner paintings in most major galleries in the UK and these include museums in Cambridge plus Edinburgh, but London will always be the best place of all to find his work because most can be found here.

For those looking to study more of JMW Turner and his extensive career of Romanticist oil paintings, you can find a full list of Turner prints here. Print reproductions of classic Turner paintings are very popular currently as the artist retains a very large fanbase with in America and Europe, with a continued interest in Romanticism generally as well. You can also find Turner paintings here in another great resource of British art that hosts a large online gallery of his best works and also discusses the artist's career in further detail.

Fighting Temeraire must surely rank as one of the most famous seascapes of all time and this genre features regularly with in the career of this famous British painter who found the greatness of these majestic war ships to be inspiring for his work and they also happened to be very popular subjects with his growing fanbase. There have been several artists over the centuries who have specialised in seascapes but Turner was an imaginative and ambitious artist who would never settle just for using this topic with in his work and went onto to cover as many different aspects of landscape painting as he could.

More Information on the Artist

JMW Turner was an artist who mastered the key elements of any landscape painting with an excellent control of light and it's effect on different elements with in the painting such as the sky and sea. You will see with in Fighting Temeraire that the sky scene is exceptionally complex with the sun being set against many levels of sky that together produce an exciting swarm of colour which underlines the artist's connection to the Romanticist art movement. The Fighting Temeraire is a fantastic choice of subject for any proud British man or woman as the ship itself played a key part with in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and this painting actually captures the moment when the ship is on it's finak journey where it is later reduced to scrap after having an impressive influence on British naval history. Turner ensured that it would even be remembered significantly with in British art history as well.

The National Gallery in London holds many Turner paintings and thankfully this venue is currently free of charge to visit which means that the best art from British history is available to all which is an important right for any country to give to it's residents. All significant museums and galleries with in the British capital remain free to visit and this is a great draw to tourists at a time when most economies are struggling and people do not have endless budgets to use on holiday. JMW Turner, sometimes refered to as William Turner, was a major part of the Romanticist art movement which had an important role in the development of European art from what had gone on before. The key point of this style was that artists would input their own emotional attachment to the subject into the painting when previously most artists had followed a method of realism where the subject is simply copied precisely as anyone would have seen it in reality. Caspar David Friedrich was a German painter who probably was the other most notable artist to have been involved with the Romanticism art movement.

John Constable is an artist who is regularly compared to Turner as they were influential painters and starred around roughly the same time. The key similarity between them was certainly their love for landscape painting though Constable prefered to stick to his Suffolk scenes whilst Turner appeared more ambitious and would travel across the country and then onto Venice in Italy, among others, to try to gather as many inspirational views into his caeer as he could as well as experimenting with different types of architecture that these locations could offer. Whilst London was a comfortable place for Turner to include in his work he also quickly fell in love with the alternative architecture found in Venice where his watercolours really took off.

You are welcome to download our images of the great painting and save as your desktop wallpaper background on your computer but larger, high res alternatives can be found on the Fighting Temeraire Wikipedia page which we also recommend that you check out too, as there is also further information on the great painting plus links to find out more about the artist as well. Wikipedia is always a great resource for art topics and also helpfully has many pages translated into a variety of languages should English not be native to you. It is important that art history is spread across as many countries and cultures as possible and this will certainly help that.

Discover Further Paintings by JMW Turner

This website is just one of many great resources offering information on this memorable British painting and it's artist, JMW Turner. Popular topics related to the artist and his famous painting that people commonly search for online includes things like Turner Fighting Temeraire, turner paintings, turner and the masters, stretched canvases, posters, giclee prints, watercolours and turner prints. The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up, 1838 is also another popular search term as this is actually the long full title of the work, with Turner regularly using exceptionally long names for his paintings which have become abbreviated over time.

Aside from The Fighting Temeraire, JMW Turner also produced the following famous British oil paintings:

  • Warkworth Castle, Northumberland
  • Thunder Storm Approaching at Sun-Set The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory
  • Snow Storm: Hannibal and His Army Crossing the Alps
  • Eruption of Vesuvius
  • The Battle of Trafalgar
  • Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus
  • The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons
  • The Grand Canal, Venice
  • The Fighting Temeraire Tugged to Her Last Berth to Be Broken up
  • Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On)
  • Glaucus and Scylla
  • Rockets and Blue Lights (Close at Hand) to Warn Steamboats of Shoal Water
  • Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway and Shrimpers in Lyme Regis