The painting represents the moment in which the HMS Temeraire; an old British warship built in 1798 is tugged by a tugboat to the drydock to be broken up.
The painting shows the mouth of the river Thames in the moment of the sunset.
It can be divided into two parts:
In the left part there are four flagships, including the HMS Temeraire, and one steamboat which is tugging the Temeraire.
In the right part we can see the Sheerness harbor and some buildings. We can also see a strange objet in the water that seems to be rubbish or a petrol can.
These are some examples of similar Turners paintings:
In this painting, Turner represented a real scene that he saw in 1838 in Sheerness (Great Britain). But as in many of his paintings, the artist invented the place and he interpreted the environment as he saw it, not as it was.
The contrast between the colors and the light of the right and left side give rise to the contrast between two worlds: the left side with less light, blue tones and the reflection of the moon give to the boat an almost ghostly aspect and the right side; with warm colors, more light, less details and the sunset that give the meaning of the end of the life.
The left side of the painting is very detailed and the right side is not detailed and it´s full of loose brush-strokes and color stains, maybe with this, the artist wanted to express that we can know a lot of things of our life in the past, but we can´t know what awaits us after death.
As I have said before, Turner represented a real moment, but not as it was:
The HMS Temeraire was tugged by two tugboats not only by one; also in the moment in which it was tugged, its masts had been removed and the most important aspect is that this event didn´t happen in the sunset, the displacement of the Temerarie was carried out in the morning probably at 8:00 am.
The contrast between the ghostly shapes of the Temeraire and the heaviness of the steam tugboat tries to show the opposition between two sailing eras.
The sunset of the sun coincides with the sunset of the warship.
Also this painting is a meditation about the principles of modernity in front of the principles of tradition (the little, heavy, and fast tugboat tugging the big, glorious but old-fashioned flagship to its end).
CONNECTION WITH THE STYLE
The painting clearly corresponds to the Romantic period. There are many features of Romanticism in the painting such as the theme: the contrast between life and death; the painting is full of color and light, and it also tries to represent movement; most of the painting is painted with loose brush-strokes and color stains.
Also the painting doesn´t show a moment of the ordinary life.
I like this painting because it represents a real moment of history and it shows a transition period in the history of sailing.
I like the color and light and also how the artist obtain the contrast between two eras at the same moment.
RELATION WITH OTHER TURNERS PAINTINGS
As in many of Turners works of art, the painting shows the reality, but with many imaginary aspects. Also in almost Turners paintings, the use of loose brushstrokes and color stains predominate.
Rain ,Steam and Speed
The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Common
The painting was the fauvorite painting of Turner and it´s interpreted as a personal meditation about his own old age.
In 1876 the "Royal Academy" chose this painting to be on the medal of honor of Turner.
The painting had a very inportant support in Great Britain since the beginning because it represented the end of a glorious warship that participated in the battle of Trafalgar, in which Great Britain obtained the naval supremacy until WWII.