Turner and the Whale

Turner and the Whale opened at Hull Maritime Museum on October 7 2017, where it was on display for three months. The exhibition centred on four paintings by the acclaimed nineteenth-century marine painter Joseph Mallord William Turner, perhaps the greatest marine artist Britain has ever produced. Painted in the last years of his life, and exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1845-1846, Turner’s four whaling canvases depict scenes of Arctic, Antarctic, and Pacific whaling, in a challenging, abstract style. At the time they were exhibited, Turner’s canvases divided the opinions of critics and viewers. Today, they are acclaimed as some of his greatest late works. The exhibition placed Turner’s whaling quartet in the context of the visual and material cultures of Hull’s eighteenth- and nineteenth-century whaling industry, bringing together paintings and prints of the whaling trade, as well carvings made by some of the Inuit craftsmen the Hull whalers encountered in the Arctic, and scrimshaw – or whale teeth and bones carved by the whalers themselves. Viewed alongside Turner, they provide an insight into how Turner and his contemporaries viewed whales and whaling, and the Arctic and other marine environments they were found in.

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The Exhibition

Explore the exhibition

View scrimshaw in 3D

Listen to a whaling soundscape

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The Whaling Collection

View selections from the Hull Maritime Museum Whaling Collection

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Position Papers

Read position papers