Joseph Mallord William Turner

Spa from the Hillside

1839

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 94 × 154 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D28089
Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 24 a

Catalogue entry

This detailed drawing of Spa formed the basis of a gouache, pen and ink and watercolour drawing of the same view (Tate D29017; Turner Bequest CCXCII 66). Turner’s inscription at the bottom left is believed to read ‘Jeal’ according to the Turner scholars Martin Butlin, Andrew Wilton and John Gage. They have interpreted ‘Jeal’ as a possible reference to the town of Jalhay situated approximately twenty miles north-east of Spa.1 Cecilia Powell, on the other hand, has transcribed Turner’s inscription as ‘Seats’.2
The lofty spire of the Church of Saint-Rémacle occupies the centre of the composition. To the left, on the gradient, is a building in classical style which housed the town’s spring and was erected to commemorate Peter the Great of Russia who had visited Spa to take the waters in 1717. According to the publisher William Chambers, who toured the area in 1841, the building was a ‘handsome edifice with a portico over the main spring’ and was erected by the Russian monarch ‘in gratitude for the benefits which he received’.3
In comparison with the detailed rendering of the town centre the surrounding Ardennes hillsides are roughly rendered, Turner inscribing the word ‘Corn’ to demarcate one of the crop fields lining the ridge.
For other views of Spa in this sketchbook see Tate D28078, D28082–D28083, D28086–D28088, D28090–D28092, D28107–D28116; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 19, 21–21a, 23–24, 25–26, 34a–39a.

Alice Rylance-Watson
April 2013

1
Butlin, Wilton, and Gage 1974, p.115, no.370.
2
Powell 1991, Appendix p.214.
3
William Chambers, A Tour in Switzerland in 1841, London 1842, p.8.

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