J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Tour of Northern France 1826

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At the beginning of the autumn of 1826, between the end of August and the middle of October, Turner made an extensive tour of Northern France, taking in the picturesque coastal regions of Normandy and Brittany, the historic towns of the Loire Valley, and some of the major sites of Paris. No pressing motivation for this particular trip has come to light other than Turner’s usual curiosity, his ongoing need to extend his range of subjects, and a growing demand in Britain for literary and artistic products reflecting the history and beauty of France. In fact, the copious sketches he gathered along the way did prove highly fruitful in the event; most notably providing the basis for the watercolour and gouache designs for the first volume of Charles Heath’s popular illustrated publication Turner’s Annual Tour: Wanderings by the Loire and Seine (1833–5 ; later reissued as Rivers of France). Other works to draw directly on material gathered on the tour include an oil painting for the 1829 ...
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Rouen, Le Havre, Caen, Bayeux and Isigny-sur-Mer Sketchbook 1826
D23457–D23524
Turner Bequest CCLI
Rouen Sketchbook 1826
D24077–D24106
Turner Bequest CCLV
Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook 1826
D23336–D23456; D41071–D41073
Turner Bequest CCL
Morlaise to Nantes Sketchbook 1826
D23011–D23150; D40496–D40497; D40500
Turner Bequest CCXLVII
Nantes, Angers and Saumur Sketchbook 1826
D23151–D23245; D40689–D40690
Turner Bequest CCXLVIII
Loire, Tours, Orleans and Paris Sketchbook 1826
D23246–D23335; D41040–D41042
Turner Bequest CCXLIX
France and Folkestone Sketchbook 1826
D24107–D24167
Turner Bequest CCLVI
Loose Studies of Northern France c.1826–32
D20207–D20211, D20215, D20216, D20218, D20219, D20224, D20225, D20256, D20317, D20318, D20479–D20493, D20496, D20497, D20516–D20519, D20525, D20526, D20529, D20530, D20537–D20541, D24573–D24575, D24579, D24581–D24583, D24593, D24596, D24636, D24637, D24644, D24656–D24663, D24702, D24703, D24710, D24712, D24726, D24728, D24733, D24748, D24750, D24751, D24755, D24756, D24758, D24759, D24762, D24764–D24771, D24800–D24802, D24825, D24831, D24835, D24853, D24857, D24858, D24870, D24877–D24880, D24882, D24889, D24892, D24906, D24907, D24918–D24920, D24924, D24926, D24949, D24951, D24961, D24968–D24970, D25035, D25037–D25040, D25056, D25061, D25082, D25089, D25148, D25212, D25342, D25356, D25357, D25379, D25387, D25425, D34411, D34413–D34417, D34439–D34442, D34509, D34556–D34559, D34677–D34680, D34682–D34684, D34686, D34922, D34923, D36322, D40078, D40080, D40128, D40129, D40134, D40140, D40173, D40446, D41493
Turner Bequest CCXX A–E, I, Ja, K, L, Q, R, CCXXI W, CCXXIV 27, 28, 173–184, 187, 188, 204–207, 212, 213, 216, 217, 224–227, CCLIX 8–10, 14, 16–18, 28, 31, 71, 72, 79, 91–8, 137, 138, 145, 147, 161, 163, 168, 183, 185, 186, 190, 191, 193, 194, 197, 199–206, 235–237, 260, 263b, 266, 270, CCLX 17, 21, 22, 34, 41–44, 46, 53, 56, 70, 71, 82–4, 88, 90 113, 115, 125, 132–134, CCLXI 63, 65–68, 84, 89, 110, 117, CCLXIII 26, 90, 220, 234, 235, 256, 264, 302, CCCXLIV d 56, d 58–62, d 82–85, d 145, d 173–176, d 242, d 243–247, d 426, CCCLXV b 31
At the beginning of the autumn of 1826, between the end of August and the middle of October, Turner made an extensive tour of Northern France, taking in the picturesque coastal regions of Normandy and Brittany, the historic towns of the Loire Valley, and some of the major sites of Paris. No pressing motivation for this particular trip has come to light other than Turner’s usual curiosity, his ongoing need to extend his range of subjects, and a growing demand in Britain for literary and artistic products reflecting the history and beauty of France.1 In fact, the copious sketches he gathered along the way did prove highly fruitful in the event; most notably providing the basis for the watercolour and gouache designs for the first volume of Charles Heath’s popular illustrated publication Turner’s Annual Tour: Wanderings by the Loire and Seine (1833–5 ; later reissued as Rivers of France).2 Other works to draw directly on material gathered on the tour include an oil painting for the 1829 Royal Academy exhibition, The Banks of the Loire,and illustrations for The Keepsake album of 1831.3
By the later 1820s, the needs of British tourists travelling to and around Normandy and Paris were well provided for, and Turner had visited both of these parts of France several times by 1826.4 Brittany and the Loire Valley, on the other hand, were an unknown quantity for the artist and some distance from the usual tourist trail.5 With English guides to those regions as yet unavailable, Turner must have improvised his own route, making his way from site to site on public carriages, or diligences, and steam boats with the aid of the large map which he carried with him. This document, which obviously served both as a tool for navigation and as a convenient surface on which to jot pencil notes and sketches, is preserved in the Turner Bequest; see Tate D34922 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 426).
This catalogue follows the itinerary for the 1826 tour as reconstructed by Turner specialist Ian Warrell in the catalogue for the 1997 Tate exhibition Turner on the Loire, which built upon the earlier literature on the artist’s French tours and cleared up several crucial confusions.6 It also includes Warrell’s addition of four extra sketchbooks to the three that were already generally accepted as belonging to the tour.7 Thus in addition to the three volumes documenting the journey up the River Loire – the Morlaise to Nantes (Turner Bequest CCXLVII), Nantes, Angers and Saumur (Turner Bequest CCXLVIII), and Loire, Tours, Orleans and Paris (Turner Bequest CCXLIX) sketchbooks – are also included the Rouen, Le Havre, Caen, Bayeux and Isigny-sur-Mer (Turner Bequest CCLI), Rouen (Turner Bequest CCLV), Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel (Turner Bequest CCL), and France and Folkestone (Turner Bequest CCLVI) sketchbooks.
In Warrell’s interpretation of this material, Turner set off on his tour from England with at least four sketchbooks, supplemented by bundles of folded white and blue papers on which to make notes and drawings. Using some of these loose sheets to record the West Sussex coast where he embarked for France, he then worked his way through three of these sketchbooks (Rouen, Le Havre, Caen, Bayeux and Isigny-sur-Mer, Rouen,and Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel; Turner Bequest CCL, CCLI, CCLV) as he made his way from his landing at Dieppe and along the coasts of Normandy and Brittany. Having acquired three sketchbooks in France to capture his journey up the Loire and his arrival in Paris (Morlaise to Nantes, Nantes, and Angers and Saumur Loire, Tours, Orleans and Paris; Turner Bequest CCXLVII, CCXLVIII CCXLIX), he then turned to the fourth English sketchbook (France and Folkestone; Turner Bequest CCLVI) to record the final leg of his journey back to Kent via Calais.
1
Ian Warrell, Turner on the Loire, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, pp.34–64.
2
Luke Herrmann, Turner Prints: The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 1990, p.32.
3
Warrell, London 1997, pp.181–4.
4
See Ian Warrell, ‘France’, in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.114, 115.
5
Warrell, London 1997, pp.22, 23.
6
Ibid. pp.24, 25, 207 note 12.
7
Ibid. pp.23–6.

John Chu
March 2016

How to cite

John Chu, ‘Tour of Northern France 1826’, March 2016, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, March 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/tour-of-northern-france-r1185631, accessed 18 December 2017.