Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tancarville: Colour Study


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 307 × 488 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 17

Display caption

This is the full-sized colour study for the finished watercolour that Turner made for the Swinburne family (British Museum). There are many such 'colour beginnings' in the Turner Bequest, in which the artist carefully plots out his composition and colour harmonies before embarking on the finished design. This practice, however, became increasingly rare in the 1840s. The finished watercolours Turner made in these years, almost invariably of Alpine subjects, were usually based on watercolour studies made on the spot or later on the tour. He therefore had no need to make further colour studies.
The finished 'Tancarville' is a landscape of Classical repose, bathed in brilliant sunshine.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

This colour study or ‘colour beginning’1 relates closely to a watercolour dated 1839, Tancarville on the Seine (British Museum).2 The connection was first recognised by Andrew Wilton.3 For more information about this watercolour and related studies, see the Introduction to this section.
Of the two colour studies for Tancarville on the Seine catalogued here (for the other see Tate D25199; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 77), this is the more developed. The trees in the right foreground in particular are more prominently suggested. Compositionally, the study has a close relationship with Turner’s finished watercolour of the scene, the position of the key areas of land, Tancarville’s ruined castle and the trees framing the scene on the right all laid out on the sheet. The sheet also presents an idea of the colour relationships present in the finished watercolour, with a focus on the warmer shades: the yellow, orange and brown tones seen in the sky, hills, castle and trees are all present.
As noted in the introduction to this section, of Turner’s earlier 1832 studies of Tancarville, one of the studies (Tate D24734; Turner Bequest CCLIX 169), which Ian Warrell has termed ‘the most self-consciously Claudean,’4 appears to have been of particular interest to Turner when developing the present colour study and its companion. It seems that Turner returned to this and other c.1832 source material when working on the later watercolour and the present studies (see Introduction to this section). This and the directly connected colour study are significantly different to those dated to the earlier time of c.1832, being larger in scale and completed on white, rather than blue, paper.
There are many discussions of the ‘colour beginnings’; for a useful introduction see Eric Shanes, ‘Beginnings’ in Joll, Butlin and Herrmann 2001, pp.21–3.
Wilton 1979, p.465 no.1379.
Wilton 1975, p.150.
Warrell 1999, p.131.
Technical notes:
The watermark, ‘C. ANSELL | 1828’, is here given as it was described by Warrell.1 A watermark appearing to meet this description was partially seen during the time of cataloguing, but as the sheet is now laid down on paper this could not be properly rechecked.
Ibid, p.280 no.174.
As the study is now laid down on paper, the verso could not be checked at the time of cataloguing.

Elizabeth Jacklin
August 2018

Read full Catalogue entry

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