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J. M. W. Turner - Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight, 1835

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The River Tyne winds across northeast England to the North Sea, passing through the city of Newcastle, just a few miles from the river’s mouth. The site of vast coal mines, as well as the manufacture of glass and iron, Newcastle was at the fulcrum of the Industrial Revolution by the turn of the 19th century. Pictured here is the River Tyne at Shields, a town downriver from Newcastle proper. Coal mined nearby was loaded at Shields onto small flat-bottomed vessels called keels. The keels were navigated across the shallow river and under the low Tyneside bridge, their cargo transferred onto large ocean-going ships waiting in the harbor. The most frequent destination was London, the main consumer of coal from Newcastle.

The River Tyne winds across northeast England to the North Sea, passing through the city of Newcastle, just a few miles from the river’s mouth. The site of vast coal mines, as well as the manufacture of glass and iron, Newcastle was at the fulcrum of the Industrial Revolution by the turn of the 19th century. Pictured here is the River Tyne at Shields, a town downriver from Newcastle proper. Coal mined nearby was loaded at Shields onto small flat-bottomed vessels called keels. The keels were navigated across the shallow river and under the low Tyneside bridge, their cargo transferred onto large ocean-going ships waiting in the harbor. The most frequent destination was London, the main consumer of coal from Newcastle.

Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight captures and juxtaposes these two themes. The moon’s iridescent, nocturnal glow and a sense of calm pervade the painting as you imagine water slapping rhythmically against the buoys in the foreground and paddles propelling the rowboat quietly across the harbor. By contrast, teams of workers servicing the thicket of boats anchored in the harbor bustle under fiery braziers and a cloud of soot at the painting’s edges, suggesting an even more extensive landscape of industry that continues just out of view. In the far background, flaming smokestacks are visible and the pollutants they emitted may have contributed to the refracted, shimmering quality of the light in the painting. Turner mingles the imperatives of industry with the enduring and sometimes inexpressible values of nature.

Resource: National Gallery of Art

Details
Title: Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight
Creator: Joseph Mallord William Turner
Date Created: 1835
Location Created: United Kingdom
Place Part Of: United Kingdome
Collection: Widener Collection
Type: Landscape
Location: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Additional Information

Artist J. M. W. Turner
Artist Nationality English Artist
Art Period Romanticism
Painting Technique Oil Painting
Original Size Overall: 92.3 x 122.8 cm (36 5/16 x 48 3/8 in.) framed: 127.6 x 158.1 x 14 cm (50 1/4 x 62 1/4 x 5 1/2 in.)
Print Made In Canada
Printed At ABC Fine ART
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