Catalogue entry

T04821 Colebrook Dale engr. F.C. Lewis, pub.1825

Mezzotint 137 × 199 (5 3/8 × 7 13/16) on wove paper 356 × 585 (14 × 23 5/8); plate-mark 152 × 202 (6 × 7 15/16)
Engraved inscriptions: 'Engraved from the original picture in the possession of Mr. J. Chalon, by F.C. Lewis, 5, Gt. Newport Street. | COLEBROOK DALE, | J.M.W. TURNER, R.A. | London, Published July 1, 1825, by Hurst, Robinson & Co. 6, Pall Mall.’ and ‘Proof.’ lower right; Turner studio blind stamp b.r. edge of image
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1986
Prov:,Artist's sale, Christie's 1873–4; ...; N.W. Lott and H.J. Gerrish Ltd, from whom bt by Tate Gallery
Lit: Rawlinson II 1913, no.775, first published state

Frederick Christian Lewis (1779–1856) was a landscape painter as well as a printmaker, but it is in the latter capacity that he is chiefly remembered today, best known for his impressive aquatints. It was as an aquatinter that he first collaborated with Turner, c.1804, on a print of ‘Brocklesby Mausoleum’ (Rawlinson II 1913, no.812; repr. Herrmann 1990, p.25). Then around 1807 he also engraved in aquatint (with some mezzotint) a plate for Turner's Liber Studiorum, ‘Bridge and Goats’ (W.G. Rawlinson, Turner's ‘Liber Studiorum’, 1878, no.43; repr. Herrmann 1990, p.54), a print once believed to indicate that Turner originally intended to engrave the whole of the Liber in aquatint (rather than in mezzotint, the technique he eventually favoured for the series). This theory is now discredited (Herrmann 1990, p.28), but Lewis contributed no further plates to the Liber, probably because of the problems he experienced with Turner over the progress of ‘Bridge and Goats’ and the question of his remuneration (see Gage 1980, nos.18, 19, 21). Lewis did not work again with Turner until the mid-1820s, when he engraved this print, ‘Colebrook Dale’, in mezzotint, together with a companion print, ‘New Weir on the Wye’ (Rawlinson II 1913, no.776). Towards the end of the decade he also engraved a large mezzotint of the ‘The Field of Waterloo’ (ibid., no.795) and, probably also in the late 1820s, produced two aquatints after designs by Turner of French river views (ibid., nos.831–2; see T05198).

The original picture from which the print of Coalbrookdale was taken (c.1797, Yale Center for British Art, Butlin and Joll 1984, no.22) is one of the earliest of Turner's surviving works in oil, and like the majority of his early paintings is executed in a dark palette with rich tonal contrasts, making it ideal for translation into mezzotint. A number of these pictures were night scenes, which relied to a great extent for their pictorial effectiveness on the contrast between cool moonlight and a warm man-made light source such as firelight (usually supplied by industry) or lamplight. The companion to this print, ‘New Weir on the Wye’, for example, contrasts moonlight with the fires of forges on the river bank. (The whereabouts of Turner's original oil of this subject is not known - indeed, the picture is nowhere mentioned in the Turner literature. It may correspond with the painting sold by the Hon. R. Winn on 28 May 1881 at Christie's, lot 58, ‘Windings of the Wye - Moonlight’.) ‘Coalbrookdale’ is unusual, as Louis Hawes has pointed out, in concentrating on a single light source, the firelight created by the limekiln (Presences of Nature: British Landscape 1780–1830, exh. cat., Yale Center for British Art 1982, pp.79–80).

The engraved lettering on this impression of ‘Colebrook Dale’, the first published state, and on the corresponding state of its pair, ‘Moonlight on the Wye’, indicates that both pictures were in the collection of the landscape and genre painter, John James Chalon (1778–1854), at the time the mezzotints were made. It seems likely that Chalon himself commissioned the plates. It was originally intended that the prints should be published on 2 April 1825 by Taylor and Hessy of 23 Waterloo Place, London (Rawlinson II 1913, no.775, engraver's proof ‘b’; in fact, the full lettering on this state, as indicated by an impression in the British Museum, 1868-11-14-333, gives Taylor and Hessy as joint publishers with J. and A. Arch of Cornhill - who were also publishing Turner's Southern Coast at this time: see under T04370-T04427). It was Hurst, Robinson and Co., however, who finally published the print on 1 July, as the lettering on this impression indicates. The reason for the change of publisher is not known, but it should be pointed out that Hurst, Robinson and Co. had recently been engaged by Charles Heath to publish Turner's Picturesque Views in England and Wales (see under T04503-T04612). Rawlinson also lists a later, undated state of the print published by J. and F. Harwood.

Other impressions of ‘Colebrook Dale’ are in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Art and the Industrial Revolution, exh. cat., Manchester City Art Gallery 1968, no.209) and in the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (S. Smith, A View from the Iron Bridge, exh. cat., RA 1979, no.50).

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996