Joseph Mallord William Turner

Grenoble Bridge


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Support: 555 × 750 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 346

Display caption

These sheets are two of four preparatory studies for a watercolour of the bridge over the River Isère at Grenoble (now in Baltimore, America). Turner had visited Grenoble in 1802 on his first visit to the Continent and utilised sketches he had made on that journey for this subject. In the group of colour studies Turner's working practice can be followed stage by stage towards the finished work. represents the most basic stage of the view, with its broad tonal areas of colour, while in, the details and forms of the picturesque design are more readily discernible.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

See notes to Tate D25468; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 345 for four progress colour studies for the watercolour Grenoble Bridge (Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland)1 made for Charles Holford apparently in 1824. This study is on the same paper as the Holford watercolour and Tate D25491; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 368; see Technical notes below. Following on from D25491 it adds more detail and differentiation to the houses, noting their terracotta roof tiles, and builds up a play of slanting shadows and reflections on the surface of the river. The distant mountains have taken on the clear blue seen in the finished version. A boat crowded with figures, right of centre, is indicated by stopping out the transparent washes otherwise suggesting the water. The washerwomen and their laundry on the right bank in the final watercolour are also beginning to come into focus here. In his notes for the Marlborough House catalogue, John Ruskin described this as a ‘study, or perhaps abandoned commencement’ of the Holford watercolour.2 Later, when it was shown (probably with D25468) at the National Gallery, he praised it ‘among the most exquisite fragments existing of [Turner’s] central manner’.3
Wilton 1979, p.345 no.404.
Ruskin on Pictures; Cook 1902, p.248; Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.310.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.366.
Technical notes:
The paper was made by Bally, Ellen and Steart at De Montalt Mill, Combe Down, Bath, Somerset, and watermarked. Turner used the same paper for the preceding study, D25491, as noted above, and for the finished watercolour.
Peter Bower, identifying the paper, illustrates a detail of the watermark and a micrograph of the surface.1
Bower 1990, p.44 figs.16A, B.
Laid down

David Blayney Brown
January 2012

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