Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sunset over the Lagoon near Venice

1840

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Gouache on paper
Dimensions
Support: 185 × 280 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D32203
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 18

Catalogue entry

This is one of three colour studies on grey paper (Tate D32191, D32202, D32203; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 12, 17, 18) included in the present grouping of Venice Lagoon subjects, of which only this one has previously been proposed in recent years as relating to Turner’s 1840 visit. The other two are included here tentatively by association in terms of the similarity of their grey paper supports (see the technical notes below) and their having originally been included in the ‘Venice: Miscellaneous. (b) Grey Paper’ section of Finberg’s 1909 Inventory, albeit D32191 was among a handful (D32185–D32191; CCCXVII 6–12) on similar paper of which he noted ‘some – probably all – ... are not Venetian subjects’, but likely ‘done at the same time’,1 while this and D32202 were given generic titles. D32185–D32190 are included elsewhere in the present tour. Finberg subsequently decided that the present sheet was ‘nothing to do with Venice’.2
Nevertheless, Ian Warrell has characterised this as a Lagoon view, and has compared the ‘lurid’ orange here with a ‘watered-down version’ in a grey paper study of the Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute at twilight (Tate D32201; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 16).3 He has noted the ‘greater force’ achieved here with ‘the same tones’, observing that ‘the concentrated intensity achieved by the scalding vermilion, the fiery orange and a rather vaporous lilac are rarely met with in Turner’s sketches, though such combinations occur repeatedly in late exhibited works’ such as the 1840 oil painting Slavers throwing overboard the Dead and Dying4 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).5 In discussing Turner’s ‘sensual engagement with materiality’, Leo Costello has seen the visual strength here as a sign of the artist’s unflagging ‘life force’.6
Compare the sunset effects over water in Tate D32162 and D32191 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 25, CCCXVII 12), included in this Lagoon grouping.
1
Finberg 1909, II, p.1022; see also Finberg 1930, p.175, and Wilton 1974, p.160.
2
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1024; see also Finberg 1930, p.175.
3
Warrell 2003, p.215.
4
Ibid., p.235.
5
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.236–7 no.385, pl.388 (colour).
6
Costello 2012, p.177,
Technical notes:
This is one of numerous 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as being on ‘Bally, Ellen and Steart grey paper’ which Turner had also used on his Continental tour of 1833, including Venice, and therefore ‘the dating of some of these sheets in uncertain’ (see in particular Tate D32205–D32210; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 20–25); the following ‘seem to arise from the later visit’:1 Tate D32180–D32181, D32183–D32184, D32200–D32201, D32203–D32204, D32212, D32215, D32217 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 1, 2, 4, 5, 15, 16, 18, 19, 27–30, 32); see also Venice: San Giorgio Maggiore and the Zitelle from the Giudecca (currently untraced)2 and The Doge’s Palace from the Bacino (private collection),3 and two further ‘half-size sheets’:4 Tate D33883 (Turner Bequest CCCXLI 183), and Shipping with Buildings, ?Venice (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge).5
1
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 8) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
2
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1367, reproduced.
3
Not in ibid.; Warrell 2003, fig.233 (colour).
4
Warrell 2003, p.259.
5
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.423 no.1037, reproduced.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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