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The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory, Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1806–8, © Tate, London
When we started this collection we were sure we wanted to include a Turner and this oil on canvas represents the moment Nelson was hit with the final shot. You can see him lying left of centre and if you draw your eye towards the top right you see the smoking gun of the French marksman, high in the rigging of his ship, the Redoutable.
‘The viewer is confronted by both the chaos of battle and the intimate tragedy of Nelson’s final moments. A contemporary reviewer termed this a ‘British epic picture...the first picture of the kind that has ever...been exhibited’.’
This painting is a fantastic addition as a pocket square. To be able to wear a piece of art from one of Britain’s best-loved artists is truly unique and we particularly like wearing it as puff or four point fold. To learn how to create these fold see our guide on how to fold a pocket square.
The painting can be found in the Tate's collection in London. Tate Images is part of Tate Enterprises Limited, the trading arm, of Tate. All its profits is covenanted to Tate each year and plays a vital role in supporting all four of its galleries, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St. Ives.
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Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) is one of the most beloved of British painters; an alchemist working in paint. For Turner, light was the purest expression of spirituality on Earth, and it was this deep belief which prompted him in his work. Against this transcendence, Turner often placed man in all of his sympathetic absurdity. Although Turner was a great inspiration to Monet and other Impressionists, these painters sought to express the visual affect of light rather than the emotional.
Those who had the chance to observe Turner sketching relate that he would often jot down impressions, allow them to gestate for a few days while he sat idle, then in a burst of inspiration add colour and feeling.
The London-born Turner found refuge in his work from early childhood, when his mother was put into hospital suffering from mental illness. Raised by the Thames and then sent to Margate, water was a constant presence in Turner’s early life.
It was stated about Turner by the great art critic John Ruskin that he could best “stirringly and truthfully measure the moods of Nature,” and he was recognized for elevating landscape paintings from mere illustrations into works of provocation. Fittingly, Turner’s last words were said to be, “The Sun is God.” For more information about Turner, refer to his Wikipedia page.
The art critic John Ruskin, closely associated with Turner, owned a sketch which he believed was a key to the finished painting The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory, which Turner started painting in 1806. The key is especially helpful because Turner’s strength did not lie in portraiture, and although the central characters were known to Turner in life, this is not reflected in their faces in the painting.
Although the sketch, key and accompanying description were damaged in the Thames flood of 1928, they were later deciphered by the Tate through ultra-violet scanning and the names compared against the roll of the ship. Along with the identities and locations of the injured Lord Nelson and his Lieutenant Pasco, who was also wounded in the attack and is depicted being carried to safety, French marksmen, and other British seamen, the key tells us that Turner may have intended to paint flags on deck showing a compound signal communicating Nelson’s final caution at Trafalgar, “Engage the enemy more closely”, instead of the sole French flag that the painting was widely believed to depict. More information about the key and the painting itself is on the Tate Britain website.
During his lifetime, Turner used the paints that gave him the fullest satisfaction colour-wise without regard to how they would weather, despite numerous warnings from critics and others. Even though many of his works have not aged well, the paintings he bequeathed to the nation remain an object of dispute.
Although Turner’s wish was for the paintings to remain together in a single gallery, a failure to pin down relevant details prior to his death and a frugality on the part of the government meant this did not happen and the paintings are now scattered across several collections in the United Kingdom. A substantial cluster of works can be visited in the Clore Gallery at the Tate Britain.
Turner will also make an appearance on the £20 note due to be issued by the Bank of England by 2020; in another sign of his enduring place in British culture, his painting The Fighting Temeraire was singled out as Britain’s ‘greatest painting’ via a 2005 public poll by the BBC.
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