Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lauffenbourgh on the Rhine


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 180 × 257 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXVII H

Catalogue entry

Etching and mezzotint by Turner and Thomas Hodgetts, ‘Lauffenbourgh on the Rhine’, published Turner, [?1] June 1811 although dated 1 January 1811
Since the Rhine was designated as the national border in 1801, there have effectively been two Laufenburgs, German and Swiss, divided by the river. The German, north bank appears to the left of Turner’s Liber Studiorum composition. His design is based on a combination of elements from two similar pencil drawings in the Fonthill sketchbook (Tate D02204, D02205; Turner Bequest XLVII 27, 28), made on his first tour of Switzerland in 1802. He referred to another, made from further down the river, to map the complexities of the distant roofs and windows (D02232; XLVII 55). He had included another urban view of the river in the first part of the Liber, showing Basle, about twenty miles to the west (see Tate D08135; Turner Bequest CXVII H).
Ruskin disliked the composition, finding it ‘remarkable’ that, to complement the British architectural subjects in the Liber, ‘we have nothing foreign to oppose but three slight, ill considered and unsatisfactory subjects, from Basle, Lauffenbourg, and Thun.’1 (See also Tate D08110, D08160; Turner Bequest CXVI I, CXVIII F.) Having described the rapids as ‘the grandest piece of running water, I suppose, to be seen in Europe’, he declared that the way ‘Turner came to tame them down to this little ribband of streaming light, and to reduce the really magnificent bridge ... to this mere footway, with a field-railing along it, passes all the caprice yet traced by me in his character.’2 However, he also compared Turner’s grouping of the figures favourably with examples by Titian and Veronese.3
The composition is recorded, as ‘7[:] 5 Lauffenbourg’, in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12157; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 24), in a draft schedule of the first ten parts of the Liber (D12156–D12158; CLIV (a) 23a–24a)4 dated by Finberg and Gillian Forrester to before the middle of 1808.5 It also appears later in the sketchbook, again as ‘Lauffenbourg’, in a list of ‘Architecture’ subjects (Tate D12168; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 29a).6
Cook and Wedderburn III 1903, pp.235–6.
‘Catalogue of the Rudimentary Series’ in Instructions in Practice of Elementary Drawing..., in ibid., XXI 1906, p.220.
Ibid., VII 1903, p.225
Forrester 1996, pp.160–1 (transcribed).
Finberg 1924, p.xliii; Forrester 1996, pp.13–14.
Forrester 1996, p.162 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.59–68; 1906, pp.69–79; Finberg 1924, pp.105–24.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
Rawlinson 1878, pp.67–8.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

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