Joseph Mallord William Turner

The ‘Pouhon Pierre Le Grand’ at Spa

c.1839

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Medium
Gouache, pen and ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 141 x 191 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D24610
Turner Bequest CCLIX 45

Catalogue entry

In his account of an 1841 tour of the Meuse-Moselle region, the Scottish publisher William Chambers wrote that the resort of Spa was ‘highly distinguished’ for its healing mineral springs. Its:
celebrity was sustained by various royal valetudinarians from different parts of Europe, and nobles without number. The greatest patron of all, however, was Peter the Great of Russia, who visited it in 1717 – a circumstance never to be forgotten by the inhabitants; for, in gratitude for the benefits which he received, he built a handsome edifice with a portico over the main spring, the Pouhon, at the centre of the village.1
It is this neo-classical building, named after the Russian monarch, which Turner pictures in fine pen and ink here. The drawing is based on a pencil sketch in the Spa, Dinant and Namur sketchbook of 1839 (Tate D28108; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 35), though that preparatory work does not include the extra foreground incident of the diligence coach and canopied building on the right seen in the gouache.
Turner’s employment of colour is secondary to his free and diverse handling of pen and ink here. The artist’s handling is at times deliberate (see his linear rendering of the Pouhon building) and at others cursory and gestural (see the hubbub of carriages and people in the foreground), lending the drawing a sense of calligraphic dynamism and variety.
1
William Chambers, A Tour in Switzerland in 1841, London 1842, p.8.
Verso:
Inscribed in pencil ‘45’ at bottom right.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2013

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