Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dancing Peasants, Brittany


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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour, gouache and pen and watercolour on paper
Support: 132 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLIX 197

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During his travels Turner was always interested in the distinctive qualities of local dress, occasionally making it a separate area of study. As well as this subject, there are sketches of the decorative headwear worn by Breton ladies in Turner's sketchbooks. The lively and humourous group in this work are caught in a celebratory dance, the image acting as a kind of snap-shot of traditional Breton life, much like the images tourists continue to appreciate. The second half of the 1820s was a period when Turner was particularly concerned with figure subjects, both in his oil paintings and his watercolours, although contemporary critics sometimes derided his efforts.

Gallery label, September 2004

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