Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Falls of the Rhine at Schaffhausen


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
Support: 232 × 295 mm
Presented by the Art Fund (Herbert Powell Bequest) 1967

Display caption

The Schaffhausen Falls were one of the great natural spectacles of Europe. Turner had drawn them on his first trip to the Continent in 1802. Revisiting the site in the summer of 1841, the time of year when the falls are at their most dramatic, the waters of the Rhine swollen with melted snow from the Alps, Turner made at least ten drawings. Like the drawings of 1802, this example from the series has been executed on paper prepared with a grey wash. The turbulent, teeming water has been suggested by scraping through the wash to reveal the white paper beneath, while the fine spray has been captured by less vigorously lifting away some of the tint. Highlights have been added in pen and ink.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851

T01022 The Falls of the Rhine at Schaffhausen c.1841–4

Not inscribed.
Pen and red ink, pencil, grey wash and scratching out on paper prepared with a grey wash, 9¿ x 11¿ (23.25 x 29.5).
Presented by the National Art-Collections Fund from the Herbert Powell Bequest 1968.
Coll: ? H B Brabazon by 1902;...; Herbert Powell, entrusted to the N.A.C.F. 1929.
Exh: see Atkins T00964.
Lit: Sir Walter Armstrong, Turner, 1902, p. 276.
Repr: Illustrated London News, 27 April 1968, p. 35.

This is a page from a sketchbook, with an additional ¿ inch wide strip from the adjoining page to the left and three stitch holes. What appear to be two companion pages, showing the Falls from further up river and with rainbows, were exhibited at Agnew’s, November to December 1967 (71 and 72; formerly Sir Donald Curie collection; lent anonymously and by D J Molteno respectively). These were dated c. 1835 in the Agnew’s catalogue but this seems considerably too early: the use of red ink to define the forms and to suggest detail, though found in the 1830s, is here used to an extent only paralleled in the 1840s. Of three further views of the Falls in the National Gallery of Scotland, similar in being painted over a general preparation in grey wash though somewhat more heavily treated, one is dated 1841. Although Turner had visited Switzerland previously no. T01022 must therefore date from one of the annual visits he made from 1841 to 1844, probably the first.

Turner exhibited a large oil painting of the same subject, seen from the other side of the river, at the Royal Academy in 1806 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; repr. John Rothenstein and Martin Butlin, Turner, 1964, pl. 30) and there are related drawings in the ‘Fonthill’ sketchbook in the British Museum (Turner Bequest XLVII, pp. 29, 31, etc. ). These were done during Turner’s first visit to Switzerland in 1802, when he also produced some large finished drawings of the Falls in pencil and white chalk on paper prepared in grey (Turner Bequest LXXIX-A, B, C, D and E).

A pen and wash drawing of the Falls, probably prepared for the Liber Studiorum but never engraved, was bequeathed by Henry Vaughan to the British Museum (CXVIII-Z). A finished watercolour in the City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, was engraved for the Keepsake in 1833. There are a number of other watercolours of the Falls dating from the 1840s but less closely related to no. T01022 than those mentioned above. They include three in the British Museum (Turner Bequest CCCLXIV – 218, 233 and 287), one in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and one in the collection of Mr Kurt Pantzer, Indianapolis (repr. exh. cat.. Turner in Indiana, Art Gallery, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, February 1963, p. 55 no. 52).

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1967–1968, London 1968.

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