Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Infrastructure of the Walhalla, at Donaustauf near Regensburg; a Castle on a Distant Hill

1840

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 198 × 126 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D31410
Turner Bequest CCCX 68

Catalogue entry

This page was used vertically, both ways up. As Cecilia Powell has noted, the diagrammatic elements relate to the immense stone hillside infrastructure leading up to the temple-like Walhalla1 at Donaustauf near Regensburg. The building was then not quite complete, and the sketches are slight and hurried, the most developed being recognisable by the general form of diverging and converging steps, albeit inaccurate or fanciful in its details. For numerous contemporary studies and views in this sketchbook and elsewhere, see under folio 33 verso (D31341).2
The other way up, there is a slight but more conventional view of a hilltop tower or ruined castle, the slopes rapidly shaded to suggest its being silhouetted, perhaps against a sunset sky. It is possibly an impression of a passing effect looking west along the Danube Valley from below the Walhalla to nearby Donaustauf, although the castle and its setting there are recorded in detail with a less jagged outline elsewhere in this book (see for example folio 41 recto; D31356).
At any event, just as the light in another Donaustauf view reminded the artist of his illustrious predecessor Claude Lorrain (folio 36 verso; D31347), so this subject, wherever it was observed, called to mind ‘Tom Girtin’. Turner and the short-lived Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) had been friendly rivals and sometime collaborators as young watercolourists (see Andrew Wilton’s ‘Monro School c.1794–8’ section in the present catalogue). Girtin had been noted for his evocative light effects, most famously in the twilit 1800 White House at Chelsea (Tate N04728), which Turner sometimes mentioned or noted specifically in relation to his own later drawings (see Tate D34267; Turner Bequest CCCXLII 66v).3

Matthew Imms
September 2018

1
See Powell 1995, p.244.
2
See also ibid., pp.70, 82 note 53.
3
See also Lindsay 1966, p.80, Gage 1969, pp.97, 244 note 102, Bailey 1997, p.332, and Susan Morris, ‘Girtin, Thomas’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann eds., The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.125–6.

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