Joseph Mallord William Turner

Hals and Burg Hals above the River Ilz, from the South-West


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache, graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 146 × 218 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCII 60

Catalogue entry

As recognised by Cecilia Powell,1 Burg Hals is shown high above the village of the same name along the neck of a tight meander of the River Ilz,2 in hilly wooded countryside barely a mile due north of Passau in southern Germany, which Turner reached in mid-September 1840 (see under Tate D28993, D29006, D33871; Turner Bequest CCXCII 46, 57, CCCXLI 174, in this subsection). The view here is to the north-east from the hills just outside the city, with the castle ruins and houses in the upper part of Hals barely differentiated from each other, their white highlights giving the impression of a jagged rock formation. There is a hint of the river flowing north up the valley on the left.
The ruins are the focus of six atmospheric colour studies on both brown and grey papers (see also Tate D24776, D28960, D28997, D29012, D36162; Turner Bequest CCLIX 211, CCXCII 13, 49, 61, CCCLXIV 305). They were also drawn in pencil from numerous angles in the contemporary Venice; Passau to Würzburg sketchbook (see under Tate D31391; Turner Bequest CCCX 58a), and on Tate D33667, D33669 and D33670 (Turner Bequest CCCXL 2, 4, 5) in the larger Passau and Burg Hals book, D33667 being developed with watercolour.
Compare in particular D31403 (CCCX 64a) in the Venice; Passau to Würzburg book, a study of the ruins and houses, and D28997, a more finished view from this angle on a slightly smaller sheet of pale grey paper, with its tints suggesting calm sunlight. The effect here is more dramatic, with the surrounding landscape evoked through colour alone, the blues of the hills on the right merging with low cloud against lurid patches of sky, seemingly evoking the beginning or end of the day. D29012, on a similar sheet, presents the scene with the top of the castle caught in golden sunset beams above raw blues in the valley (albeit both works appear to have been affected and perhaps coarsened by water damage, as discussed in the technical notes below).
See Powell 1995, p.161.
See also ibid., pp.69, 160–3.
Technical notes:
Pencil has been used over the white highlights to articulate architectural forms, with hatching (very unusually for Turner) being used to evoke localised shadow. As is more evident from the back, the sheet is slightly wrinkled, likely as a result of the 1928 Tate Gallery flood, which also appears to have caused localised dark staining, particularly below the centre. A rubbed diagonal crease is evident across the colours of the sky towards the top right.
Ibid., p.161.
Ian Warrell, ‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 11) in Warrell, David Laven, Jan Morris and others, Turner and Venice, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2003, p.259; see also ibid., sections 9 and 10.
See also Powell 1995, pp.69, 81 notes 2 and 42.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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