Joseph Mallord William Turner

Half-Timbered Houses, Probably at Trarbach; Houses and Gate Tower, Trarbach


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 118 × 78 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXVI 110 a

Catalogue entry

In order to take these nimbly rendered sketches, Turner appears to have alighted from his boat and started on foot to explore the twisting complicated streets of Trarbach. Here the artist makes a full study of one particularly elaborate timber-framed house, and a sketch of a group of buildings at the foot of the page.
Accounts written in the 1840s give some textual picture of Trarbach’s interior: the Victorian travel writer Michael Joseph Quin describes the town’s streets as ‘most irregularly formed, on account of the hilly nature of the ground which they occupy. Some of the houses in those streets seemed to us perched in the air’.1 Another contemporary travel writer Bartholomew Stritch, meanwhile, is rather more critical of Trarbach’s local architecture and landscaping, describing its streets as: ‘dark, tortuous, narrow, and dirty... formed of old fashioned, and time stained houses, with heavy over-hanging gables, that seem leaning upon each other from decrepitude’.2
More scenes of Trarbach’s interior and its busy waterfront are recorded on the folio opposite (Tate D19770; Turner Bequest CCXVI 111); see also Tate D20240; Turner Bequest CCXXI G for an idea of how the town’s buildings ‘perched’ onto the hillside.

Alice Rylance-Watson
April 2014

Michael Joseph Quin, Steam Voyages on the Seine, the Moselle, & the Rhine, etc., London 1843, p.14.
Bartholomew Stritch, The Meuse, the Moselle, and the Rhine; or, A six weeks’ tour through the finest river scenery in Europe, by B.S., London 1845, pp.52–3.

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