Joseph Mallord William Turner

Cliffs and Cornfields by the Meuse with Poilvache in the Distance


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 141 × 188 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXIII A

Display caption

On the twenty-mile stretch between Namur and Dinant the Meuse becomes increasingly like the Middle Rhine, with rocky cliffs, steep wooded hills, picturesque towns and the remains of several medieval castles including Poilvache just north of Dinant. The contrast between the two banks of the river here is especially striking. One of Turner's contemporaries noted that a wall of naked rock on the left bank of the Meuse faced cultivated land as far as the eye could reach - exactly the contrast glimpsed in no.95.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Here Turner pictures the Meuse’s calm waters in Belgium’s Namur Province, with golden yellow cornfields at right. A riverboat sails the placid river at left, the vessel plunged into dark green shadow by a wall of blackened limestone cliff. Poilvache Castle, a medieval stronghold in ruins, is just visible in the distance.
The English journalist and novelist Dudley Costello (1803–1865) visited Poilvache during his tour of the Meuse region in the mid-1840s. He writes that the ruined castle sits within
ten acres of ground or more. It is very much overgrown with shrubs, wild cherry, dwarf oak, hazel, and barberry, and the turf is one carpet of wild thyme filled with bees... The view of the country from the battlements of Poilvache is most magnificent, and the course of the Meuse can be traced for several miles.1
This gouache is derived from a cursory pencil sketch in the Spa, Dinant, and Namur sketchbook of c.1839 (Tate D28159; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 63). Earlier sketches of Poilvache can be found in the Rivers Meuse and Moselle sketchbook of 1824 (Tate D19652–D19653; Turner Bequest CCXVI 51a–52).
Dudley Costello, A tour through the valley of the Meuse: with the legends of the Walloon country and the Ardennes, 2nd ed., London 1846,pp.255–6.
Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCXXIII A’ at bottom right.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2013

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