The Fighting Temeraire Tugged To Her Last Berth is a remarkable painting completed in 1838 by British artist Joseph Mallord William Turner, depicting the final journey of HMS Temeraire to a London shipyard to be broken up for scrap. The painting shows the 98-gun ship being towed by a drastically smaller tugboat, demonstrating Turner’s artistic license to enhance the impact of the scene. He considered this painting one of his most important works and kept it along with his other paintings, bequeathing them to the nation upon his death.
The painting is seen as an image of Britain’s relationship to industrialization. It reflects Turner’s nostalgia for a vanishing era, symbolizing that Britain had transitioned from her glorious past as a naval power towards the modern age of steam and industry. The Fighting Temeraire has received positive attention since its initial exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1838 and continues to do so today.
This artwork is considered by many art historians as one of Turner’s greatest paintings and showcases his Romantic style through its brilliant use of light, color, and symbolism. The subtle use of bold colors brings out deep emotions felt during this momentous occasion in Britain’s history.