Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dinant, Bouvignes and Crèvecoeur: Sunset


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 136 × 188 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXX U

Display caption

The cliffs, citadel and church of Dinant make it one of the most picturesque towns on the Meuse. Just downstream lie Bouvignes and the castle of Crèvecoeur (seen in no.96) while slightly upstream the river bank is dominated by the Roche à Bayard (nos.99-100). No.97 was once owned by Ruskin who greatly admired its rock drawing. Some of Turner's scenes use a comparatively narrow range of colours (nos.98-9), but no.96 is one of the most dynamic of all his Meuse-Mosel studies as the sun sets behind Crèvecoeur flooding the limestone cliffs of Dinant with brilliant light.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

This evocative gouache of Dinant pictured at sunset is based on a collection of cursory pencil drawings in the Spa, Dinant, and Namur sketchbook of 1839 (Tate D28158–D28159; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 62 a–63). Cecilia Powell has also proposed that Turner may have taken this view in situ, recording it directly onto the blue paper with ‘a schematic pencil outline’ to map out the basic forms of the landscape.1
The artist uses a palette of golden yellow, ochre, scarlet, rust, burnt orange, moss green, and violet here to evoke the iridescent light of sunset. The view incorporates Dinant’s citadel, illuminated on the east bank of the river; the Church of Notre-Dame, with its teardrop–shaped spire is coloured in blood orange wash; and the Church of Bouvignes with the Castle of Crèvecoeur in violet shadow appears at right.
There exists a similar picture of Dinant to Turner’s, produced by the artist Thomas Allom for publication in Thomas Roscoe’s Belgium: In a Picturesque Tour (1841). Allom’s view was used to illustrate a long account of Dinant, written in lyric prose. Parts of the text may be usefully quoted here, to be considered in conjunction with Turner’s evocative drawing. Roscoe describes the glow and shimmer of light cast on Dinant at sunset, writing that:
when the evening sun gilds the spire of Notre Dame, and the salient parts of the fortress and surrounding hills, it appears illuminated with a golden flood... the bright expanding river, the town and fortress of Dinant resting upon the hills seen beyond... form a coup d’oeil of extreme beauty.2
The ‘effect of the sun-light upon the spires and towers’, ‘the rich hues reflected in the waters, the deep blue, and green tinged sky’ then ‘threw a halo of warm and brilliant colours over the spot as we saw it’.3 The writer concludes, declaring that ‘nothing could be more attractive to a painter’s eye’ than this ‘picturesque’ and ‘romantic’ Moselle town.4
For other of Turner’s 1839 gouaches of Dinant see Tate D20227, D20229, D24724; Turner Bequest CCXX T, V, CCLIX 159.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2013

Powell 1991, p.160 no.96.
Thomas Roscoe, Belgium: In a Picturesque Tour, London 1841, p.263.

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