Joseph Mallord William Turner

Picturesque Composition with a Distant View of Tours from the North East


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 242 x 342 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XXVII L

Display caption

Turner's early training involved him making copies of depictions of the celebrated sights of the Italian Grand Tour. Though related to this kind of exercise, these two newly-identified watercolours show French scenes. Both were made at least five years before he travelled to France for the first time in 1802, and some thirty years before he actually went to the Touraine region himself. He may have based his copies on works in the collection of Dr Thomas Monro, like the Italian subjects, but the actual sources for the sketches have, so far, not been identified. The view of Blois is especially interesting in anticipating the composition of the subject engraved for Turner's Annual Tour, 1833 (no.123, next room).

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Finberg had suggested that this was a view of Builth Wells, but J.P. Heseltine noted that the sheet has the air of both a copy and a Picturesque composition.1 It has now been identified as showing Tours. The town view must have been copied from a print, and Ian Warrell proposes that the subject was that of a print given Turner to copy by Dr Monro. The copying process is, however, very different from that of most Monro drawings, and includes, as Warrell notes, an elaborate foreground frame of road and trees which Turner presumably invented. A similar exercise is Tate D00674 (Turner Bequest XXVII M); see also Tate D00724 (Turner Bequest XXIX S).
MS notes, Tate catalogue files.
Blank; not stamped

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

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