Joseph Mallord William Turner

Between Quillebeuf and Villequier

c.1832

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 137 × 191 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D24669
Turner Bequest CCLIX 104

Display caption

The design in this watercolour foreshadows Turner’s painting of the Fighting Téméraire (seen in the print to the right). The later painting was a nostalgic reflection upon Britain’s passing glories. This scene, of a streamtug on the lower Seine in France, is more straightforward in its presentation of the usefulness and even excitement of the new technology.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Engraved:
By Robert Brandard in 1833, published in 1834.
In this watercolour, Turner presents the contrast of a dark tug-boat billowing black smoke, with a light-coloured and elegant sailing ship. He contrasts strength and power with grace and fragility, within a scene of both calm – as conveyed by smooth water, ships in the distance and the white tower of the church and buildings of the town of Aizier at right, and of hazards. Art historian Judy Egerton explains that the watercolour depicts five ships which have navigated around a difficult bend of this dangerous stretch of the River Seine in northern France through the assistance of two steam-tugs.1 The dark colours as well as the sense of functionality of the tug are echoed in the small boat at lower left. Its bright red flag, reflected amid the foaming white waves, indicates the further danger of quicksand.2 The rosy, delicate, pink and orange tones of the sailboat at right provide a further contrast with the grimy darkness. Steamboats seem to have had some interest for Turner,3 occurring frequently in his work.4 Various art historians have commented on the juxtaposition of steamboats and sailboats as symbols of new and old as a motif in his art, most famously presented in his renowned oil painting The Fighting ‘Temeraire’, exhibited in 1839 (Turner Bequest, National Gallery, London5).6
The watercolour is based on various pencil sketches (Tate D23807; Turner Bequest CCLIII 55a,7 as well as D23810; CCLIII 578) in Turner’s Tancarville and Lillebonne sketchbook,9 believed to date from 1829, and sketches on one page (Tate D24039; Turner Bequest CCLIV 80) of Turner’s Seine and Paris sketchbook,10 dating from 1832.
An engraving was made from this watercolour by Robert Brandard in 1833, as Between Quilleboeuf and Villequier (Tate impressions T05609 and T06241) for the volume Wanderings by the Seine of 1834.11
1
Egerton, Wyld and Roy 1995, p.62.
2
Ibid. p.64.
3
Papastamos, Gage and Stainton 1981, p.124.
4
Lyles 1992, p.61.
5
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.229–31 no.377, pl.381 (colour).
6
Lyles 1992, p.61; Egerton, Wyld and Roy 1995, pp.62, 64, 85.
7
Wilton 1979, p.414; Warrell 1999, p.274; Papastamos, Gage and Stainton 1981, p.124.
8
Warrell 1999, p.274.
9
Wilton 1979, p.414; Warrell 1999, p.274; Papastamos, Gage and Stainton 1981, p.124.
10
Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.119.
11
Leitch Ritchie, Wanderings by the Seine, London, Paris and Berlin 1834, opposite p.182.
Verso:
Blank, except for an inscription ‘12’ in grey gouache in the upper right corner of the sheet, immediately below a further inscription ‘6’ which has been crossed out, also an inscription at top centre in grey gouache and black ink ‘Villier [or ?Near]. Quilbeuf and Villier‘ and below this in black ink [?Forest] of B’, all probably made by Turner. ‘B’ could refer to the forest of Brontonne. The centre of the sheet is stamped with the Turner Bequest monogram above the number ‘CCLIX – 104’, which is also written in pencil at bottom centre. There is a small area of brownish spotting at upper right.

Caroline South
November 2017

Read full Catalogue entry

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