Joseph Mallord William Turner

Kaub and the Castle of Gutenfels

c.1820–4

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 396 × 507 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D25511
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 387

Display caption

Nos.18 and 19 are both colour studies for the same watercolour commission (no.20). Turner has used the identical size and type of paper for each study and has positioned his images in exactly the same way on the two sheets. However, he has experimented with different colour schemes, no.18 being much lighter and brighter, with a greater emphasis on primary colours. In that work the composition is also much more fully resolved and both Kaub and Burg Gutenfels are now clearly visible.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

This is one of two colour studies on sheets of the same size and manufacture (see also Tate D25512; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 388) for a watercolour of about 1820 or a little later, Kaub and the Castle of Gutenfels (private collection);1 Finberg tentatively recognised their common subject.2 A smaller study (Tate D25438; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 315) focuses on the group of boats in the foreground of the finished composition, while the scene is based on a small pencil sketch in the 1817 Itinerary Rhine Tour sketchbook (Tate D12651; Turner Bequest CLIX 77a);3 unlike other German subjects of the following few years, it did not derive from one of the many River Rhine watercolours Turner had sold to Walter Fawkes soon after his return from the Continent (see the Introduction to this section).
Both the large colour studies show the view upstream to the south-east, with the Gutenfels castle high above the riverside town of Kaub, and the Pfalzgrafenstein castle on its island represented in silhouette towards the right, and both are worked leaving bare strips above (used for test strokes in this case) and to the left, so that the compositions approximate to the size of the finished design. The present variant features some more precise detail, with strong yellow noon or afternoon light suffusing the sky at the right and contrasting with blues and reds in the landscape,4 while D25512 shows the light coming from the left, casting the slopes beyond into shadow suggesting an early morning in summer, as in the finished design where the Gutenfels stands higher still, glowing orange as it catches the sunlight against a clear sky.
1
Wilton 1979, p.465 no.1378, as c.1840 (sic); Powell 1991, p.109 no.20, as c.1820; Powell 1995a, p.29, as c.1824; Shanes 2000, p.123 no.42, as c.1824.
2
See Finberg 1909, II, p.845; see also Wilton 1975, p.61, Wilton 1979, p.465, and Shanes 1997, p.97.
3
See Powell 1991, p.109, and Shanes 2000, p.123.
4
See Wilton 1982, p.40, and Powell 1991, p.109.
Technical notes:
There is some pencil work on the hills, and stopping out or lifting of colour at the sunlit edges of the terrain and buildings catching the light from the south-west. Cecilia Powell has used this work as an example of a ‘colour beginning’ which ‘should be regarded as the coloured equivalents of the outlined “studies for pictures” found in Turner’s sketchbooks, but with this category of drawing – as with the oil studies – it is often hard, indeed impossible, to distinguish between a composition study and an abandoned early stage of a picture’.1
1
Powell 1995b, p.59.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

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