Joseph Mallord William Turner

Spa from the Liège Road


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache, pen and ink and watercolour on paper
Support: 140 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCII 66

Display caption

Spa, situated in a dip in the Belgian Ardennes some twenty miles south-east of Liège, is the oldest watering-place in Europe, but it has been popular also for its social attractions and the natural beauty of its situation. No.115 shows the main mineral spring in the town centre (housed in a building commemorating the visit of Peter the Great in 1717). Nos.116 and 117 show springs situated in the surrounding woods. The 'Promenade de Sept-Heures' (nos.118-119) was laid out in the eighteenth century for the diversion of Spa's aristocratic visitors who would relax here after supper. By Turner's day, the elms provided luxuriant shade and a band played nearby.

Gallery label, September 1991

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Catalogue entry

The Belgian town of Spa, the Scottish publisher William Chambers writes:
may be observed to consist of a cluster of neat white houses, thrown into the form of two or three irregular streets and open promenades, the whole embowered amidst trees and gardens, and overhung, on the north and east, by a woody mountain range.1
‘Highly distinguished for its springs’, Chambers continues, ‘Spa was resorted to... by many persons of wealth from England’ as a healthful place of rest and repair from which to take the healing waters.2
In this drawing, Turner depicts the town in the foothills of the Ardennes from the road leading to Liège. It is nestled in a vale highlighted with illuminating white and pale yellow gouache. The architecture of Spa, the rooftops of its local houses as well as the lofty spire of the Church of Saint-Rémacle, is loosely drawn over the top of the gouache in pen and black ink. Figures occupy the foreground in Turner’s drawing: tourists or locals, looking out onto the expansive view, and taking in the panorama of the surrounding countryside.
This gouache is based on a pencil sketch in the Spa, Dinant and Namur sketchbook of 1839 (Tate D28089; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 24a). For other colour drawings of Spa see Tate D24610, D24745, D24753, D24780, D24788; Turner Bequest CCLIX 45, 180, 188, 215, 223.
William Chambers, A Tour in Switzerland in 1841, London 1842, p.8.
Inscribed in pencil ‘114 a’ towards bottom right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCXCII–66’ at bottom right and left.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2013

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