Joseph Mallord William Turner

St Martin’s Church, Cochem


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 190 × 139 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXI T

Catalogue entry

This striking view of the eighteenth-century Church of St Martin at Cochem is based on a preliminary pencil sketch in the Cochem to Coblenz Home sketchbook of 1839 (Tate D28540; Turner Bequest CCXCI 2). St Martin’s lofty steeple dominates the composition at centre. It appears at the end of a narrow street lined on either side with buildings. The façades of these buildings are described swiftly in rough strokes of black and brown gouache. Despite Turner’s overall rather summary handling, the artist does establish a clear impression of linear perspective and recession through the use of emphatic diagonal lines on the façades. Though these lines of perspective do not converge at the centre, i.e. at a vanishing point, their inclusion in the composition does serve to accentuate the verticality of the church tower.
At the foot of St Martin’s steeple stands a soot-black gateway with a great yawning arch. Two diminutive figures can be seen on the road beneath dwarfed by the surrounding architecture. Beyond the church, in the background, is the Reichsburg rendered in softly smudged pastel tones of pink and yellow which juxtapose the sombre grey, black and brown of the foreground. The hazy, obscure form of the castle’s keep is in direct contrast with Turner’s rendering of St Martin’s ornate cupola and lantern which is delineated in fine strokes of black wash.
The vertical format of this work is rare among Turner’s 1839 gouaches, though there is one other like it: a view of the Enderttor and Alte Thorschenke at Cochem (Tate D24806; Turner Bequest CCLIX 241). The two were most likely conceived and produced as companion pieces.1 For other gouache drawings of Cochem see Tate D20238, D20253, D24723, D24725; Turner Bequest CCXXI E, T, CCLIX 158, 160.
Powell 1995, p.134 no.54.
Inscribed in pencil ‘21a’ at centre towards top right.

Alice Rylance-Watson
September 2013

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