About This Artwork

Joseph Mallord William Turner
English, 1775-1851

Fishing Boats with Hucksters Bargaining for Fish, 1837/38

Oil on canvas
68 3/4 x 88 1/2in. (174.5 x 224.9 cm)
Inscribed on top flag of nearest boat: J.M.W. Turner

Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Kimball Collection, 1922.4472

In Fishing Boats with Hucksters Bargaining for Fish, Joseph Mallord William Turner translated his enduring preoccupation with the sea into a dramatic vision. The subject itself and the painting’s low horizon line derive directly from seventeenth-century Dutch sea painting. But where the boats in the seascapes of the period are almost reconstructible in their exactness, Turner’s minimal and more impressionistic depiction of vessels is secondary to the drama of roiling seas, billowing sails, and a threatening sky. With just a few figurative details, Turner roughly sketched in the standing, gesturing figure on the right, who is negotiating to buy fish from the larger, crowded fishing boat on the left. Between them is a mythical golden boat that seems to spring from the artist’s imagination, and on the distant horizon is the suggestion of progress, a steam-driven vessel. With his manipulation of translucent and opaque pigments to create a sense of atmosphere and light, Turner alluded to the insignificance of man in the face of nature’s mysterious and sublime power.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2009, p. 211.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

London, British Institution, 1838, cat. 134.

Liverpool Town Hall, Pictures Exhibited at a Soiree Given by John Buck Lloyd Esq., Mayor of Liverpool, at the Town Hall on Saturday Evening September 23, 1854, 1854, cat. 40.

The Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, June 1-November 1, 1933, cat. 205.

The Art Institute of Chicago, A Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, June 1-November 1, 1934, cat. 153.

Publication History

Literary Gazette (February 10, 1838).

“Fine Arts: British Institution,” Athenaeum 538 (February 17, 1838), p. 130.

Gustav Friedrich Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain vol. 3 (London, 1854), p. 251.

Walter Thornbury, The Life of J. M. W. Turner, R. A. vol. 2 (London, 1862), p. 400, 2nd edition, London, 1877, pp. 582, 597.

Charles Francis Bell, A List of the Works Contributed to Public Exhibitions by J. M. W. Turner, R. A. (London, 1901), p. 135, no. 211.

Walter Armstrong, Turner (London and New York, 1902), p. 229.

William Lionel Wyllie, J. M. W. Turner, R. A. (London, 1905), p. 172, no. 211.

The Art Institute of Chicago Bulletin 14 (1920), pp. 71 (ill.), 77.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Handbook of Sculpture, Architecture, Paintings, and Drawings vol. 2 (Chicago, 1920), p. 60, no. 769.

Marguerite B. Williams, “Valuable Collection of Paintings Added to Chicago’s Art Treasures,” America Today–Fort Dearborn Magazine (1924), p. 10 (ill.).

The Art Institute of Chicago, A Guide of the Paintings in the Permanent Collection (Chicago, 1925), pp. 36, 155, no. 769.

The Art Institute of Chicago, A Brief Guide to the Collections (Chicago, 1956), p. 32.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Chicago, 1961), p. 456.

Alexander J. Finberg, The Life of J. M. W. Turner, R. A. (Oxford, 1961), pp. 360, 397-98, 501, no. 477.

Jeremy Maas, Victorian Paintings (London, 1969), pp. 61, 71 (ill.).

Edward Morris, “John Naylor and Other Collectors of Modern Paintings in 19th Century Britain,” Walker Art Gallery Liverpool Annual Report and Bulletin 1974-75 (1975), p. 98, no. 199.

Marin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J. M. W. Turner (New Haven and London, 1977), pp. 202-3, no. 372, pl. 350.

John D. Morse, Old Master Paintings in North America (New York, 1979), p. 280.

Andrew Wilton, J. M. W. Turner: His Art and Life (New York, 1979), p. 283, no. P372.

John Gage, ed., Collected Correspondence of J.M. W. Turner With An Early Diary and A Memoir By George Jones (Oxford, 1980), p. 195, letter no. 264.

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J. M. W. Turner (New Haven and London, 1984), pp. 223-24, no. 372, pl. 380.

James N. Wood and Katherine C. Lee, Master Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1988), p. 460.

Jon Margolis, “When Paintings Talk…,” Chicago Tribune Magazine (September 17, 1995), p. 15 (ill.).

Ownership History

Bought from the artist by John Naylor (died 1889), Leighton Hall, Welshpool, Montgomeryshire, 1851 [based on inventory of Naylor’s collection begun in October 1856 citied in Butlin and Joll 1984, p. 145; see also Thornbury 1862]; by descent to Mrs. Naylor, presumably his widow; sold through Dyer and Sons to Thomas Agnew and Sons, London, 1910 [this and the following information according to Butlin and Joll 1984]; sold to Mrs. W. W. Kimball (died 1921), Chicago, 1910; bequeathed to the Art Institute, 1922.




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