Joseph Mallord William Turner

Vignette Study for Staffage of ‘Hohenlinden’, for Campbell’s ‘Poetical Works’

c.1835–36

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

Medium
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 260 x 325 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D27522
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 5

Catalogue entry

This unfinished watercolour is a preparatory sketch for Hohenlinden circa 1835 (National Galleries of Scotland), one of Turner’s vignette illustrations for Edward Moxon’s 1837 edition of Campbell’s Poetical Works.1 The finished version of this subject was engraved by Robert Wallis to accompany Campbell’s poetic account of the Battle of Hohenlinden (1800), a conflict during the French Revolutionary Wars which concluded in France’s victory over Austria and Bavaria.2 The artist inscribed the following lines on the finished illustration:
But redder yet that light shall glow
On Linden’s hills of stained snow
And bloodier yet the torrent flow
Of Iser rolling rapidly
Tis Morn, but scarce yon level sun
Can pierce the war-clouds rolling dun
Where furious Frank and fiery Hun
Shout in their sulphrous canopy
Many of the same elements present in the finished illustration appear here in the study, for example a field cannon, a rearing horse, and fallen, wounded soldiers. The small group of figures drawn in pencil in the top left corner of the composition may make reference to the apotheosis of souls lost on the battlefield,3 a detail inspired by the final stanza of Campbell’s poem:
Few, few, shall part where many meet!
The snow shall be their winding sheet,
And every turf beneath their feet
Shall be a soldier’s sepulchre
(Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell, 1837, p.88)
Campbell’s general message in the poem is to decry the violence of war, an attitude which was often adopted by Turner in his paintings of conflict. David Blayney Brown has discussed how the vignette study appears to be related to The Field of Waterloo circa 1817 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge),4 a watercolour which Turner produced after a visit to the battlefield in 1817 and which was later acquired by Walter Fawkes.5 Turner’s determination to represent the appalling destruction wrought by war, so powerfully expressed in his large oil painting The Field of Waterloo exhibited 1818 (Tate N00500), appears here, albeit on a far smaller scale.6
1
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.1279; reproduced in colour in Mungo Campbell, A Complete Catalogue of Works by Turner in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 1993, p.59.
2
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.621. There is one impression in Tate’s collection (T04773).
3
Brown 1992, p.115.
4
Wilton 1979, no.494.
5
Brown 1992, p.115.
6
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.138.

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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