Skip to Content
We hover over a flax-yellow body of water lined with ships to our left and right, which are silhouetted against a moonlit, cloud-veiled sky in this horizontal landscape painting. The horizon comes about a third of the way up the composition. The moon hangs to our left of center in the sky, its light reflecting on the clouds in a bright, hourglass shape to create a tunnel-like effect. The sea below turns from a gold color close to us to pale blue along the horizon. To our left, one ship with gray sails is cut off by the edge of the canvas and another, also with gray sails, is situated farther from us. A small, dark rowboat with two passengers moves between them. Light from the windows in buildings along the distant horizon to our left reflect in the water, and another building, a factory, spouts white flame from its chimney. More dark ships line the waterway to our right, their spiky masts black against the sky. Three flames, one orange between two pale yellow fires, flare in the darkness in front of the ship closest to us. The forms of men shoveling coal, crates, and barges are dark silhouettes against the firelight and smoke. More rowboats float among the boats in the distance. Near the lower right corner of the canvas, a broad, flat fragment of wood floats close to us. The hot orange and black on the right side of the painting contrasts with the silvery gray, light blue, and white that fills much of the rest of the composition. The painting was created with thick, blended brushstrokes throughout, giving the scene a hazy look. The texture of some of the brushstrokes is especially noticeable, as where the moon casts white light onto the water and in the clouds. The artist signed a buoy floating to our left with his initials, “JMWT.”

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight, 1835, oil on canvas, Widener Collection, 1942.9.86

Gallery Talks

The Art of Looking

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight

  • Friday, January 20, 2023
  • 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
  • Virtual Program

Joseph Mallord William Turner's Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight is the inspiration for this interactive conversation. Join us for a one-hour virtual session and share your observations, interpretations, questions, and ideas about this work of art.

These conversations will encourage you to engage deeply with art, with others, and with the world around you as you hone skills in visual literacy and perspective-taking.

The program is free, open to the public, and is desgined for everyone interested in talking about art. No art or art history background is required. Ages 18 and over.

Due to the interactive nature of this virtual program, sessions are not recorded.

Live Captions

Live captions (CART) are available in some breakout rooms for this program. Please contact [email protected] to request access or for more information.