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Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) has been widely regarded as the most original and brilliant English landscape painter in the 19th century. Admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in 1789, Turner was a precocious artist and gained the full membership of the prestigious Royal Academy in 1802 at the age of 27. Already in the 1800s he was recognised as a pioneer in taking a new and revolutionary approach to the art of landscape painting. Among his early works made in this period, The Shipwreck, painted in 1805, epitomizes the sense of sublime Romanticism in terms of its dramatic subject-matter and the masterly display of technical innovations. Of course, the subject of shipwreck has a long standing history. Ever since human beings first began seafaring, they have been fascinated as much as haunted by shipwrecks. For maritime societies, such as England, shipwreck has been the source of endless nightmares, representing a constant threat not only to individual sailors but also to the nation as a whole. Unsurprisingly, therefore, shipwreck is one of the most popular motifs in art and literature, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries. Yet accounts, images and metaphors of shipwreck have taken diverse forms and served different purposes, varying significantly across time and between authors. As such, Turner's painting registers a panoply of diverse but interconnected contemporary discourses. First of all, since shipwreck was an everyday occurrence in this period, it is more than likely that Turner's painting depicted the actual sinking in 1805 of the East India Company's ship 'The Earl of Abergavenny' off the coast of Weymouth. 263 souls were lost and the news of the wreck made headlines in major English newspapers at the time. Turner's painting may well have been his visual response to this tragedy, eyewitness accounts of which were given in great quantity in every contemporary newspaper. But the painting is not a documentary visual record of the incident as Turner was not present at the site and newspaper reports were not detailed enough for him to pictorially reconstruct the entire scene. Rather, Turner's painting is indebted to the iconographical tradition of depicting tempest and shipwreck, bearing a strong visual resemblance to some 17th-century Dutch marine paintings with which he was familiar through gallery visits and engravings. Lastly, Turner's Shipwreck is to be located in the contexts of burgeoning contemporary travel literature, especially shipwreck narratives. The late 18th and early 19th century saw a drastic increase in the publication of shipwreck narratives and Turner's painting was inspired by the re-publication in 1804 of William Falconer's enormously successful epic poem of the same title. Thus, in the final analysis, Turner's painting is a splendid signifier leading the beholder to the heart of Romantic abyss conjoing nightmarish everyday experience, high art, and popular literature.