Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Harbour of Brest: The Quayside and Château


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1727 × 2235 mm
frame: 1877 × 2400 × 83 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Display caption

This was once thought to be a view of Italy, perhaps the garden of a Roman villa. It is now known to be based on a small jotting in a sketchbook Turner used while travelling through northern France.

In place of the towers of Rouen cathedral, Turner has introduced a patch of watery sunlight that contrasts with the foreground shadows. The reclining figures are taken directly from the sketchbook drawing. However, they also recall the pastoral scenes of Antoine Watteau, an eighteenth-century artist whose work particularly interested Turner in the 1820s and 1830s.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry

527. [N05514] Harbour with Town and Fortress c. 1830?


Canvas, 68 × 88 (172·5 × 223·5)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (? 253, 1 unidentified 7'4 1/2" × 5'8 1/2"); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1947.

Exh. Edinburgh 1968 (20).

Lit. Davies 1946, p. 164; Wilton 1979, p. 224.

This large unfinished harbour scene seems to continue the theme of Harbour of Dieppe (Changement de Domicile) and Cologne, the Arrival of a Packet Boat. Evening, exhibited in 1825 and 1826 respectively (Nos. 231 and 232). The similarity to these works, which are of exactly the same size, is an argument for dating the Tate Gallery picture rather earlier than has hitherto been thought likely, c. 1830 rather than the later 1830s.

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984

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