Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Roman Campagna with the River Tiber and Ponte Molle in the Distance 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 35
Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 35
Pencil and watercolour on white wove paper, 267 x 404 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in blue ink ‘[?35]’ bottom right, descending right-hand edge
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXVII 35’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXVII 35’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
National Gallery, London, various dates to at least 1904 (813).
Turner: Watercolours Lent by the British Museum, Musée Provisoire d’Art Moderne, Brussels, November 1970–January 1971 (14, as ‘La Campagne Romaine: le Tibre vu de Castel Giubelio’).
Turner in the British Museum: Drawings and Watercolours, British Museum, London, May 1975–February 1976 (61, reproduced in colour, as ‘The Roman campagna, with the Tiber, from Castel Giubelio’).
J.M.W. Turner 1775–1851: Akvareller og Tegninger fra British Museum, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, February–May 1976 (22).
William Turner und die Landschaft seiner Zeit, Hamburger Kunsthalle, May–July 1976 (45, reproduced in colour and black and white).
La Peinture britannique de Gainsborough à Bacon, exhibition catalogue, Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, May–September 1977 (139).
Watercolours from the Turner Bequest, Lent by the British Museum, Tate Gallery, London, January–June 1978 (no catalogue).
Turner’s First Visit to Italy, 1819: Watercolours from the Turner Bequest, Loaned by the British Museum, Tate Gallery, London, April–October 1981 (no catalogue).
Sun, Wind and Rain: The Awakening of British Landscape Painting, Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Arts, Utsonimiya, November 1992–January 1993, Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, January–March 1993 (66, reproduced in colour as.
Philip Gilbert Hamerton, The Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A., London 1879, p.188.
E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (eds.), Library Edition: The Works of John Ruskin: Volume XIII: Turner: The Harbours of England; Catalogues and Notes, London 1904, no.813, p.642, as ‘Roman campagna’.
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.I, p.556, as ‘Roman campagna: Tiber from Castel Giubelio. Water colour; lakes faded through exposure. Exhibited Drawings, No.813, N.G.’.
D[ugald] S[utherland] MacColl, National Gallery, Millbank: Catalogue: Turner Collection, London 1920, p.86.
Luke Herrmann, Turner: Watercolours Lent by the British Museum, exhibition catalogue, Musée Provisoire d’Art Moderne, Brussels 1970, no.14, p., as ‘La Campagne Romaine: le Tibre vu de Castel Giubelio’.
Gerald Wilkinson, The Sketches of Turner, R.A. 1802–20: Genius of the Romantic, London 1974, reproduced in colour, p.187.
Andrew Wilton, Turner in the British Museum: Drawings and Watercolours, exhibition catalogue, British Museum, London 1975, no.61, p.53 under no.60, reproduced in colour, p.55, as ‘The Roman campagna, with the Tiber, from Castel Giubelio’.
David Loshak and Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner 1775–1851: Akvareller og Tegninger fra British Museum, exhibition catalogue, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen 1976, no.23.
Werner Hofmann, Andrew Wilton, Siegmar Hosten and others, William Turner und die Landschaft seiner Zeit, exhibition catalogue, Hamburger Kunsthalle 1976, p.17, reproduced and in colour, p..
John Gage, Jerrold Ziff, Nicholas Alfrey and others, J.M.W. Turner, à l’occasion du cinquantième anniversaire du British Council, exhibition catalogue, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris 1983, pp.221–3 under no.149.
Cecilia Powell, ‘Turner on Classic Ground: His Visits to Central and Southern Italy and Related Paintings and Drawings’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London 1984, pp.122–3, 182, 356, reproduced fig.211.
Cecilia Powell, Turner in the South: Rome, Naples, Florence, New Haven and London 1987, p.175 note 16, reproduced pl.164, as ‘The Tiber and the Campagna’.
Peter Galassi, Corot in Italy: Open-Air Painting and the Classical-Landscape Tradition, New Haven and London 1991, p.120, reproduced in colour pl.146.
Martin Butlin (ed.), Hiroya Sugimura, Ian Warrell and others, Sun, Wind and Rain: The Awakening of British Landscape Painting, exhibition catalogue, Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Arts, Utsonimiya 1992, p.227 no.66.
Rita M. Simon, Symbolic Images in Art as Therapy, London 1997, reproduced in colour pl.6, as ‘The Roman campagna with the Tiber from Castel Giubelio’.
A large number of studies from the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook represent variant views of the Roman Campagna, the area of countryside encircling the outskirts of the Eternal City (Tate D16122–D16139; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 34–51). This is one of six such compositions where Turner has developed the landscape in watercolour (see also Tate D16122, D16129–D16131, D16133; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 34, 41–43, 45). The subject of this coloured drawing is a view of the gentle hills of the Campagna with the winding course of the River Tiber. The view is taken from a point upstream of the Ponte Molle, an ancient bridge also known as the Ponte Milvio, which can be seen in the distance in the centre of the composition. Beyond this is the high peak of Monte Mario topped by trees in the centre and the dome of St Peter’s on the left. Finberg suggested that the viewpoint was the village of Castel Giubileo, approximately five miles north of the city.1
Further studies of the Campagna and the Ponte Molle can be found in the St Peter’s sketchbook (see Tate D16217–D16226; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 35–40) and throughout the Small Roman C. Studies sketchbook (see Tate; Turner Bequest CXC). By the nineteenth century, exploration of the city’s environs had become as much part of the Roman experience as its architecture and monuments. Turner’s forays into the Campagna followed a long artistic tradition established during the seventeenth century by Claude Lorrain (circa 1600–1682) and Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665). The two French masters had famously made a number of sketching trips along the banks of the Tiber north of the city; indeed the countryside between the Porta del Popolo and the Ponte Molle had popularly become known as the ‘Promenade de Poussin’. Turner, in particular, admired the work of Claude Lorrain whose paintings such as The Roman Campagna circa 1639 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) combined motifs studied on the spot with an idealised vision of landscape. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, artists in search of authentic Italian landscape continued to follow the precedent for drawing and painting the Campagna and during the 1820s a small European coterie began to focus on painting in the open air.2 Unlike earlier topographical artists who had focused their depiction of the Campagna on images of selected landmarks, nineteenth century en plein air painters such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796–1875) and his contemporaries developed a new approach rooted in empirical observation. Working directly from nature they produced panoramic views of vast barren spaces, deserted except for distant hills and isolated ruins which served to emphasise the grand emptiness of the terrain.
Turner’s watercolour studies of the Campagna share a number of pictorial similarities with the work of these en plein air artists.3 The landscapes he depicts are wide, open spaces, often devoid of figures, where the key compositional interest is provided by the winding river, distant mountain ranges or solitary ancient structures. There is also a similar focus on the broad expanse of sky and the transient effects of light. Yet there is no evidence that the artist actually painted in the open air during his time in Italy. Several contemporary sources testify that his preference was for drawing on the spot and for colouring indoors away from the motif, since it took up ‘too much time to colour in the open-air’ and ‘he could make 15 or 16 pencil sketches to one colored’.4 In this work, the basic outline of the composition has first been sketched in pencil and then overlaid with broad washes of colour. The sky and the river have been described with liquid washes of limpid blue, combined with areas of white paper left blank to indicate intense and reflected light. Cecilia Powell has described Turner’s use of blue for the distant planes of the composition as purposefully obliterating all detail.5 This recalls the atmospheric effects of aerial perspective which characterise much of the work of Claude Lorrain. By contrast, the vegetation in the foreground is comprised of areas of paint manipulated whilst tacky to create texture and visual interest. Dry, vertical brushstrokes, for example, in the bottom right-hand corner suggest the appearance of reeds growing alongside the water’s edge. Powell has described a passage on the right beneath the sweep of the river as a ‘marvellous flurry of wet paint agitated by a finger to produce the effect of rough grassy hillocks’.6 In certain places the artist’s fingerprints are clearly visible. Andrew Wilton has pointed to the visual similarity between this watercolour study and the treatment and colouring of a large colour beginning (see Tate D25248; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 126).7
Finberg 1909, p.556.
Peter Galassi, Corot in Italy: Open-Air Painting and the Classical-Landscape Tradition, New Haven and London 1991, pp.120–2.
Letter to John Soane from his son, 15 November 1819, quoted in Powell 1987, p.50.
Powell 1984, p.182.
Ibid., p.123, and Powell 1987, pp.49–50.
Wilton 1975, p.53 under nos.60–61.
Long detached from the Naples, Rome C. Studies sketchbook, this sheet was perhaps once folio 35 (see the concordance in the introduction).
Blank, save for inscriptions by unknown hands in pencil ‘26’ centre and ‘CLXXXVII 35’ lower centre left, inverted; stamped in black ‘CLXXXVII 35’ and Turner Bequest monogram bottom left.
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