ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum (Aarhus, Denmark): Turner Watercolours: Sun is God
This view over the Bacino towards sunset is likely from just off the north side of the Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, looking west-south-west to the entrance of the Grand Canal at the centre, flanked on the left by the silhouetted domes of the church of Santa Maria della Salute and the porch of the Dogana below on its near side. The lightly indicated spire-like structure on the right may be intended as the campanile of San Moisè, north of the canal, or that of Santo Stefano, which otherwise ought to appear between it and the Salute from this angle.
John Gage observed that among the various modes employed in this sketchbook, Tate D32134–D32137 (Turner Bequest CCCXV 18–21) ‘are in a muted range of greens and browns which seem to come from a direct experience of the subject’, whereas D32127–D32130 (CCCXV 11–14) ‘have a far more complex technique and brilliant colouring; which suggests that perhaps both modes were used interchangeably for indoor work.’1 This is symptomatic of the general issue of Turner’s direct use of colour outdoors, generally a moot point in his Venice work as it is for many other subjects, however immediate their effect.2 Andrew Wilton noted this as ‘very similar in viewpoint, colouring and treatment’ to another study from this sketchbook (D32133; CCCXV 17),3 which shows a closer view in similar hazy conditions. See also three contemporary studies on pale grey-white paper, looking across the Bacino in evening light with the Dogana and Salute on the left (Tate D32150–D32152; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 13–15).4
The mood here has been described in detail by Anne Lyles: an ‘impression of still and suffused watery light is brilliantly rendered in a sequence of delicate and translucent washes of yellow, turquoise and grey; the only suggestion of solid form is an intermittent boat mast or post in the water, indicated by Turner with a few summary brushstrokes of dry brown pigment’.5 Ian Warrell has outlined the way this work and D32133 ‘treat the pyramidal bulk of the Dogana and the Salute as a combined motif ... suffused with a zesty lemon sunlight’, evoking ‘the eye’s inability to pick out detail when looking at objects against the light’, here rendering the two buildings in ‘a single plane of grey colour, though this flat area of paint does not destroy the illusion of depth within the image.’6
Gage 1969, p.39.
See Sam Smiles, ‘Open air, work in’, in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.205–7.
Wilton 1975, p.143, albeit describing this as an early morning scene; see also Stainton 1985, p.56, and Lyles 1992, p.82.
See Warrell 2003, p.209.
Lyles 1992, p.82.
Warrell 2003, pp.209, 214.
Ibid., p.105; see also p.209.
See particularly ibid., fig.101 (colour), Stanfield’s watercolour The Dogana and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute of c.1830–1 (British Museum, London).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.252 no.403, pl.409 (colour).
Ibid., p.259 no.411, pl.416.
See O’Neill 2008, p.9.
Madesani 2008, reproduced in colour p.33, as ‘Sunset over Santa Maria della Salute and the Dogana, 1840’, 2008.
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