Joseph Mallord William Turner

City, with Port (?Moselle or Meuse)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 139 × 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCII 74

Technique and condition

This work by Turner is a gouache and watercolour on a medium weight, grey wove paper. Titled Harbour at Marseilles, it is a loose, informal sketch or unfinished work. Seemingly loose shapes and marks form the basis of the composition while hurried detail is picked out on top. There seems to be no apparent rule about whether the watercolour is applied first and the gouache second as a detailer or highlighter or vice versa, since the layering and manner to which the two media are layered does fluctuate.

Though generally in quite good condition, the thick off-white and cream gouache in the right hand area of the sky and the marks in the foreground do appear to be quite friable and indeed seems to have flaked and lost particles in patches of perhaps the more thicker pigment. It is known that Turner used little or no binder in his use of lead white which means that any pigment with enough lead white blended into it is prone to flaking and losses. Otherwise this work is in quite good condition with the pigments retaining a good deal of their vibrancy.

Jo Gracey
June 2001


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