Joseph Mallord William Turner

Kaub and the Castle of Gutenfels


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 392 × 503 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 388

Catalogue entry

This is one of two colour studies on sheets of the same size and manufacture (see also Tate D25511; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 387) 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 focuses on the group of boats in the foreground of the finished composition (Tate D25438; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 315). 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 that year (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 and to the left, so that the compositions approximate to the size of the finished design. D25511 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 the present variant shows the light coming from the left, casting the slopes beyond into blue 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.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.465 no.1378, as c.1840 (sic); Powell 1991, p.109 no.20, as c.1820; Powell 1995, p.29, as c.1824; Shanes 2000, p.123 no.42, as c.1824.
See Finberg 1909, II, p.845; see also Wilton 1975, p.61, and Shanes 1997, p.97.
See Powell 1991, p.109, and Shanes 2000, p.123.
See Wilton 1982, p.40, and Powell 1991, p.109.
Blank; some scattered slight staining.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

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