A Shipwreck in a Storm

Artist: Jean Pillement (French, Lyons 1728–1808 Lyons)

Date: 1782

Medium: Pastel on gessoed canvas

Dimensions: 24 3/4 x 36 in. (62.9 x 91.4 cm)

Classification: Pastels & Oil Sketches on Paper

Credit Line: Gift of Martin Birnbaum, 1956

Accession Number: 56.7


This pastel, large in scale for Pillement, persuasively suggests the dark, threatening, moisture-laden atmosphere of the storm. The sky occupies an exceptionally large part of the picture, and the artist strictly limited the use of the blues and greens that are typical of his palette to achieve a monochromatic effect. The spectators bear witness to the risk to life, as many who were on board the ship are presumably overcome by the elements. The date appears to be 1782, though 1792 is also possible.