Joseph Mallord William Turner

Namur from the Fields


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache, pen and ink and watercolour on paper
Support: 141 × 192 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLIX 146

Display caption

Turner's use of pen and ink in these two drawings is characteristic of his Belgian scenes as a whole, but their muted twilight colouring is close to that in several of those showing the Mosel including no.48 depicting Trier and no.52 of Bernkastel. In no.94 Turner achieves a balance between the Meuse and the very much smaller Sambre by putting the more important river into shadow and bathing the right-hand side of his scene in golden light. In no.93, however, neither river is visible, their confluence occurring just beyond the left-hand edge of the drawing, but the tiny stream in the foreground suggests their unseen presence.

Gallery label, August 2004

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

Turner’s vantage point here is the shrub-dotted fields surrounding the Liège road on the outskirts of Namur. Wall-girdled, the spires, domes and towers of Namur’s architecture are suggested in abbreviated and summary pen and ink line. ‘Like all places hemmed in by walls’, the publisher William Chambers writes, Namur ‘consists of crooked and narrow streets, environed with tall old houses’.1 It is presided over by a citadel, ‘a series of loop-holed battlements over looking the town, and commanding both the vales of the Sambre and Meuse’.2 The citadel, in this drawing, is made conspicuous by Turner’s application of coral and pale lemon gouache highlights. As Andrew Wilton writes, Namur fortress is typical of the military architecture found in ‘the border land between France, Germany and the Low Countries’.3 These:
elaborate piles of masonry with vast unarticulated walls and interconnecting galleries were for Turner fantastic places that seemed to rise organically out of the rock... In his studies they are nearly always presented as quasi-natural phenomena, without commentary on their military function which so often occurs in other contexts...4
In comparison with another view of Namur from the Liège road (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), this gouache is comprised of a more muted palette: mossy greens, bronze and ‘twilight lavender’.5 The composition derives from a pencil sketch in the Spa, Dinant, and Namur sketchbook (Tate D28123; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 43). For other of Turner’s 1839 gouaches of Namur see Tate D24716; Turner Bequest CCLIX 151 which is also based on a pencil drawing in the same sketchbook (Tate D28119; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 41).
William Chambers, A Tour in Switzerland in 1841, London 1842, p.7.
Wilton 1977, p.61 no.42.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.421 no.1025; Powell 1991, p.158 no.93.
Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCLIX–146’ at centre towards bottom; inscribed in pencil ‘23a’ at top towards left and ‘CCLIX 146’ at bottom right.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2013

Read full Catalogue entry


You might like

In the shop