The seascape painting is entitled ‘Purfleet and the Essex Shore as seen from Long Reach’ by renowned British painter J.M.W. Turner

05 July 2021 | UROOBA JAMAL | AP via Bloomberg

London (AP) — A seascape by renowned British painter J.M.V. Turner will be auctioned by Sotheby’s on Wednesday.

The painting, which can currently be viewed at Sotheby’s London auction house, is expected to sell for between £4 million and £6 million ($5.5 million to $8.3 million.) Aside from a brief auction in New York in 1945, the painting hasn’t been displayed publicly in over a century.

Sotheby’s declined to say who owns “Purfleet and the Essex Shore as seen from Long Reach,” which depicts a slew of fisherman and their boats thrashing in the waves of the Thames Estuary.

It’s part of a series of work “that established Turner’s contemporary fame and reputation as the greatest seascape painter that ever lived,” said Julian Gascoigne, director of early British paintings at Sotheby’s.

Purfleet and the Essex Shore as seen from Long Reach (detail)

“He really is the fulcrum on which Western art hinges,” Gascoigne said. He added that Turner was both inspired by and competed with older masters, while he also looked towards modernism and abstraction.

The pieces in the series, painted between 1806 and 1809 at the height of the Napoleonic wars, are all of scenes at the mouth of the Thames. The painting up for bid shows a warship also lurking in the background, positioned to defend London.

It was the subject of the sea itself and Turner’s depiction of it, however, that distinguished him.

“(Its) swirling vortex of moving waves … that’s what really was revolutionary to his contemporaries,” Gascoigne said.

Last year, Turner’s self-portrait replaced economist Adam Smith’s on Britain’s 20-pound note.

The seascape canvas is on display alongside over 650 other paintings, sculptures and decorative arts in Sotheby’s multi-roomed exhibit.

Travel back in time to J.M.W. Turner’s Harley Street gallery before immersing yourself in one of the finest seascapes ever painted by a British artist. Movie trailer legend Nick Ellsworth reads from Poet Laureate John Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever’ as we set sail across the mouth of the River Thames to explore Turner’s masterpiece. ‘Purfleet and the Essex Shore as seen from Long Reach’ established Turner’s reputation as the greatest marine painter of the modern age.

Among them is a recently discovered double-sided drawing by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, the Flemish artist considered among the most influential in the Flemish Baroque tradition.

They are one of three sheets that survived from the artist’s long-lost sketchbook, which burned in a fire in a room in the Louvre in Paris in 1720, according to Gregory Rubinstein, head of master drawings at Sotheby’s.

“There were thought to be two sheets … that survived. But this has been recognized as … a third newly discovered sheet completely unknown until now,” he said.