Joseph Mallord William Turner’s Slavers Throwing Overboard The Dead And Dying – Typhon Coming On (The Slave Ship) is a significant painting from 1840. It was inspired by the events of 1781, when the infamous British slave ship Zong incident led to the murder of more than 130 slaves by being thrown into the sea. Turner expertly expresses this tragedy with his iconic use of color and light that make the image inherently striking and memorable. His painting not only captures the events of this infamous incident but also serves as a reminder that slavery was not officially abolished until 1833 in Britain, making it an important work of art in terms of social justice.
Turner additionally included text from his own poem alongside his painting as a way to further capture and evoke emotion from his audience. Although some contemporaries critics objected to this inclusion, Turner’s Slavers Throwing Overboard The Dead And Dying – Typhon Coming On (The Slave Ship) went on to become one of his most famous works and is still appreciated today.
Turner went on to produce another masterpiece with Shade And Darkness – The Evening Of The Deluge in 1843 which depicted another scene involving both light and darkness – a dramatic sky opening up at night juxtaposed with figures illuminated only by lightening. This painting, along with Slavers Throwing Overboard The Dead And Dying – Typhon Coming On (The Slave Ship), remain two of Turner’s most well-known works, illustrating his masterful use of both light and shade.