Joseph Mallord William Turner

Burg Sooneck with Bacharach in the Distance


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 494 x 386 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 120

Catalogue entry

The colour study for the identified subject on this sheet occupies its top half only; the lower edges of its ochre and grey washes are clearly defined but not precisely horizontal. As is not unusual in Turner’s ‘colour beginning’ practice, the other half was used for a different subject, albeit not developed in this instance beyond pale yellow and blue washes vaguely evoking a level landscape and bright sky.1
The upper study relates2 to the watercolour Burg Sooneck with Bacharach in the Distance of about 1820 (Aberdeen Art Gallery),3 which is on a slightly larger scale. Tate D25304 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 182) is another colour study, this time somewhat larger than the finished design, a free variation on an 1817 watercolour (British Museum, London)4 which Turner had sold to Walter Fawkes among many other River Rhine subjects soon after his return from the Continent (see the Introduction to this section).
The view is downstream to the north, with the bright form of the castle of Burg Sooneck reserved towards the top left and the location of the riverside town of Bacharach left bare at the centre, with very slight indications of the town of Lorch on the shaded bank at the right and the tower of Burg Nollig above it.5 The composition is based on a small pencil drawing in the 1817 Waterloo and Rhine sketchbook (Tate D12821; Turner Bequest CLX 62).6 As Cecilia Powell has noted, the Aberdeen version features ‘exaggerated contours’ compared with the 1817 rendering (or the present study): ‘the latter [completed] work is not based on the earlier, nor is either of them absolutely faithful to the stretch of river depicted’.7 Although Turner was clearly diligent in working out its design through two colour studies, the initial ownership of the 1820 watercolour has not been determined, and other German subjects of this period were painted for various patrons.8
Powell notes that the present work shares a palette of ‘blues, yellows and soft greens’ with a contemporary colour study of Boppard (Tate D25382; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 259),9 some twenty miles to the north-west down the river.
See Powell 1991, p.107.
See Wilton 1982, p.38, Perkins 1990, p.35, Powell 1991, pp.107–8, and Shanes 1997, p.97.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.380 no.693, as ‘Bacharach on the Rhine’, reproduced.
Ibid., p.377 no.671, reproduced.
See Sloan 1998, p.70.
See Powell 1991, p.108, and Sloan 1998, p.70 and note 2.
Powell 1991, p.108.
See ibid., p.107, and Cecilia Powell, Turner in Germany, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1995, pp.28, 77 note 54.
Powell 1991, p.107.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

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