Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Steamer and Shallow Waters in the Seine, Normandy


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 139 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLIX 81

Display caption

Turner visited the Seine in 1832 as part of his preparation for his print series, The Rivers of France, published in 1833–5. Many of his sketches include steamboats. The prints emphasise the historic and scenic associations of the Seine, as we might expect of a publication intended to make possible a kind of ‘armchair tourism’. But the presence of steamboats are a frequent reminder of modernity.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Turner worked gouache and watercolour paints over this ink drawing to depict the potential hazards of travel on the Seine as it flows through Normandy. While a steam ship lets off steam and smoke in the distance, a bank of yellow sand with an alert flag is exposed towards the bottom right-hand corner of the scene. Art historian Ian Warrell has identified two pencil sketches in the Tancarville and Lillebonne sketchbook as sources for the present colour study: see Tate D23808 (Turner Bequest CCLIII 56) and D23810 (Turner Bequest CCLIII 57).1 For a finished watercolour on a comparable theme see Tate D24669 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 135). All this activity culminated in an engraved illustration for the 1834 volume of Turner’s Annual Tour: Wanderings by the Loire and Seine (1833–5; later reissued as Rivers of France); see Tate impression T06241.
Ian Warrell, Turner on the Seine, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.271.
Technical notes:
This study was not available for inspection at the time of cataloguing.

John Chu
August 2014

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