This work with dramatic red palette recalling blood and battle depicts Napoleon in exile on the island of St Helena. It was very topical for its time - it was painted the year Napoleon’s ashes were returned to France. In verses attached the painting, Turner refers to the sunset as a ‘sea of blood’. This painting confer no particular judgement on Napoleon but rather highlights the futility and bloodiness of war.
Joseph Mallord William Turner
War. The Exile and the Rock Limpet
79.4 x 79.4 cm
Date of work
Oil paint on canvas 79.4 x 79.4 cm
Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in London; he remained a Londoner and kept a Cockney accent all his life despite dominating British landscape painting throughout the first half of the 19th century. He established a reputation in the Royal Academy, first as a topographical watercolourist and then within a few years as a painter of sublime and historical landscapes. From the mid-1790s he settled on the routine he maintained for much of his life: touring in summer and working in the studio in the winter months. He opened his own gallery and had many patrons and admirers as well as detractors. After his death a large body of his works in oil and watercolour was given to the British nation, with many on show at Tate Britain.