Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sunset or Dawn above a Landscape with Water


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 141 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCII 75

Display caption

Turner may have painted these sea studies on one of his many visits to the coast in the 1830s. He would have carried large sheets of blue paper with him on his travels. These could be folded and torn into a number of smaller sheets.

Over the course of his career Turner experimented with many different coloured papers. He particularly liked the variety of effects he could achieve with watercolour and gouache applied onto a blue ground. The darker surface allowed him to use white highlights to great effect when painting foaming waves or the reflection of moonlight.

Gallery label, July 2008

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Catalogue entry

This work differs from the others in this subsection in being on grey paper, of the sort (along with various blue papers) Turner used to complement sketchbooks of conventional white paper on tours from around 1826 onwards. John Ruskin categorised this sheet among a selection of French subjects, ‘rich in colour, but not first-rate’;1 Finberg in turn suggested a ‘Moselle or Meuse’ river setting,2 while Andrew Wilton proposed that it ‘may have been made during or shortly after the journey to Italy in 1828’.3
Various other highly coloured studies from Turner Bequest section CCXCII have been identified as river and coastal subjects in Germany and elsewhere, but the landscape here is rather less developed, and any link to a specific location is elusive as Turner concentrates instead on clouds catching the pink glow of dawn or dusk.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.290.
Finberg 1909, II, p.943.
Wilton 1975, p.98.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘115 b’ right of centre; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCXCII. 75’ below centre; inscribed in pencil ‘CCXCII. 75’ bottom right.
The surface is slightly rubbed, with what may be traces of pigment offset from another sheet.

Matthew Imms
March 2016

Read full Catalogue entry


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