Whalers (Boiling Blubber) Entangled in Flaw Ice, Endeavouring to Extricate Themselves by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). Exhibited 1846. Oil on canvas, 899 x 1200 mm. Courtesy of Tate Britain (Accession no. NO0547. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856.) Click on image to enlarge it.

Commentary from Tate Britain Online (2010)

The last of Turner’s whaling paintings shows the boiling of blubber for processing into oil. The creature laid out on the ice at the right of the picture may have been based on a whale caught in the Thames in 1842, as well as on images by other artists.

As the title makes clear, the success of the whalers is threatened by the frozen water. A reference to this incident is made in the companion to this painting which shows the Erebus, a boat the Admiralty had promised, but failed, to send to rescue ships trapped in the ice.

Related paintings


Hokanson, Alison. Turner’s Whaling Pictures. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016.

Last modified 14 May 2016