The Romantic painter and draftsman Joseph Mallord William Turner often revealed nature reigning supreme and obliterating human presence. Waves dash to pieces a barely visible ship in a storm several miles beyond Land's End, the westernmost point of England, guarded by a lighthouse called Long Ship's. Aesthetician John Ruskin wrote of this drawing that Turner captured "the whole surface of the sea . . . undirected, bounding, and crashing, and coiling in an anarchy of enormous power."
To convey the experience of nature's turbulence, Turner used the full range of watercolor technique, from transparent washes in the sky to thick bodycolor in the water and rocks. He added highlights to enrich the texture and atmosphere, blotting the wash to reveal the white of the paper in the lighthouse and scratching directly into the paper to render the flecks of light in the waves crashing over the boat. With these bold techniques, Turner came close to modern abstraction in his efforts to expand the expressive and stylistic range of landscape painting.
He made this watercolor for a series of engravings entitled Picturesque Views in England and Wales, published between 1827 and 1838.