Joseph Mallord William Turner

Paris from the Barrière de Passy


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 143 × 194 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLIX 117

Display caption

In the late 1820s and early 1830s Turner proposed a long series of drawings of great European rivers for the publisher Charles Heath. Published in series, these became known as Turner's 'Annual Tours'. For that of the Seine, published in 1835, he made some superb views of Paris which are among his finest city subjects, evoking both the scenic grandeur and dynamic vitality of the metropolis. Here Turner looks towards the heart of the city with the Tuileries, Louvre and Barrière de Bonshommes (wrongly identified as that of Passy in J.T. Willmore's engraving of this subject).

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

By J.T. Willmore in 1834, published in 1835
In this watercolour, Turner presents a view over the River Seine in Paris, France, from the Barrière de Bonshommes (at times also named the Barrière de Passy), one of the customs houses and entrances to the city. He portrays a sun glowing over distant Parisian buildings – the Tuileries and Louvre palaces on the horizon right of centre, the two towers of the Church of Notre-Dame further left and the dome of the Panthéon at furthest left. He depicts the sun’s reflection illuminating the water below, in a manner reminiscent of the renowned seventeenth-century French landscape painter, Claude Lorrain, whom Turner admired. Turner also picks out the edges of the statue and its plinth at left with sunlight. He hints at figures and activity and provisions on the quay below and includes lines of soldiers curving away along the road into the distance. The activity and bright cool-toned light suggest morning.
The watercolour is based on a pencil sketch (Tate D24473; Turner Bequest CCLVII 156)1 from Turner’s Paris and Environs sketchbook of 1832, as well as possibly another (Tate D14013; Turner Bequest CLXXIII 14)2 from his Paris, France, Savoy 2 sketchbook of 1819. Turner may also have consulted the rough studies of the Seine at Passy in his Loire, Tours, Orléans, Paris sketchbook of 1829 (Tate D23320–D23324; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 38a–40a).3
An engraving was made of this watercolour by J.T. Willmore in 1834 as Paris from the Barrière de Passy (Tate impressions T04719 and T06257) for the volume Wanderings by the Seine of 1835.4 Highlights are picked out in greater detail in the engraving. As art historian Anne Lyles points out, Turner’s sequence of images in the volume lead the reader gradually from country to city, and with this scene the viewer finds themselves about to enter the urban bustle.5
Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.120; Wilton 1979, p.416; Lyles 1992, p.63; Warrell 1999, p.277.
Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.120; Warrell 1999, p.277.
Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.120.
Leitch Ritchie, Wanderings by the Seine, London, Paris and Berlin 1835, opposite p.162.
Lyles 1992, p.63.
Previous records note the inscriptions ‘16 Paris from the Berrier Passy’ and in pencil ‘13’; however, at the time of writing the watercolour was on display and the back therefore not available for examination and confirmation.

Caroline South
November 2017

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