Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dancing Peasants, Brittany

c.1826–8

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour, gouache and pen and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 132 x 190 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D24762
Turner Bequest CCLIX 197

Display caption

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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Catalogue entry

Turner worked up this colour study of Breton peasants taking part in a clog dance from material gathered on his 1826 tour of Northern France. It is based on pencil studies in the Morlaise to Nantes sketchbook; see entry for Tate D23057 (Turner Bequest CCXLVII 25a).
Technical Notes:
The sheet belongs to a batch of dense blue paper with dark fibres used by Turner made by George Steart of Bally, Ellen and Steart at De Montault Mill, Coombe Down, Bath. 1
1
Ian Warrell, Turner on the Loire, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, p.238.
Verso:
Inscribed in pencil with the note ‘CCLIX . 197’ in the bottom right-hand corner of the sheet. Stamped in black with the Turner Bequest monogram and with ‘CCLIX – 197’ in the centre of the sheet.

John Chu
March 2016

Read full Catalogue entry

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