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Audio Stop 206

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We seem to hover over a flaxen-colored, yellow-gray body of water lined with ships to our left and right, which are silhouetted against a moonlit, cloud-veiled sky, which fills the top two-thirds of this horizontal landscape painting. 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 golden, gray 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 away 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, perhaps a piece of a wreckage, floats close to us. The hot orange and black on the right side of the painting contrasts with the silvery grey, 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

Not On View

Ecologist Joel Fodrie from the University of North Carolina’s Institute of Marine Sciences and Senior curator Franklin Kelly discuss Turner’s vivid depiction of industry and climate change in 19th-century England.

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