Shield, on the River Tyne is one of the marine paintings by the genius artist Joseph Mallord William Turner. Many artists including Turner portrait paintings related to this theme very often during that time, usually, when placing human being and vast sea together, they would like to demonstrate the sublime nature of the world and vulnerability and vulgarity of human being by depicting the scene of people struggling among the boundless sea in storm. However, in Shield, on the River Tyne, Turner try to portrait scene that human being are in harmony with nature. Actually, River Tyne makes the local inhabitants better off by supplying livelihood for them.
In the 13th century, people find coal mine in North East England and begin to export coal to other parts. Approximating surrounding coalfields as, the River Tyne became the major route for transporting coal. Although coal industry declined in the second half of the 20th century, to this day in 2008, South Shields of Tyne is still involved with coal, importing 2 million tonnes of shipments a year.
Ships line up along both sides of the Tyne in order, extending to the distant. The bright moon surrounded by bluish-green clouds in the center has brightened the night, casting a diffuse glow down upon the river, reflecting a moon in the glistening ripple. No one can bear disturbing the tranquil night. To the left in the foreground, with shimmering light of a torch, workers are busy at enchasing coal, spade moving up and down. It seems that they have to hurry up in order to get prepared to transport coal in the next morning. There are two light resources in this painting, the moon and the torch. One is soft while the other one is enthusiastic, although opposite, it can be integrated into one scene perfectly. Turner emphasize importance of light in a different way from other artists, he was striving for expression of spirituality in the world, rather than responding primarily to optical phenomena.