Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Neupfarrkirche and Neupfarrplatz, Regensburg, at Sunset, from the Drei Helmen Hotel


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache, graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 193 × 281 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 6

Technique and condition

This is a pencil and watercolour composition on a medium to heavy weight, grey coloured wove paper. There is no watermark. The quickly executed pencil underdrawing was applied first and then the paint layers were added. In this picture the colour of the paper has been used to great effect. Most of the foreground is only in pencil and has little or no paint application. The rest of the picture, with the exception of the sky, is lightly executed in watery washes. In contrast the sky has a thicker paint application. An underbound white gouache has been applied first, followed by a layer of watery but pigment rich yellow watercolour. An underbound black gouache has been used at both edges of the composition to add lowlights.
The contrast between the areas of minimal media application and those of intense, heavy colour creates the dramatic effect in this image. This work is in quite good condition with the colours retaining much of their vibrancy.

Helen Evans
April 2009

Catalogue entry

Identifying its subject in relation to other views of Regensburg in southern Germany, Cecilia Powell described this as ‘a very swift coloured drawing taken from Turner’s hotel, the Drei Helmen, and recording a brilliant yellow sky which evidently reminded him of those of Aelbert Cuyp for it is inscribed “Cyp”’.1 By comparison with a more considered pencil study in the contemporary Venice, Passau to Würzburg sketchbook (Tate D31357; Turner Bequest CCCX 41a), the view is from the north-east, with the Neupfarrkirche on the left in the middle of Neupfarrplatz, with the spire of the nearby Goldener Turm on the right, as can still be seen from the roof terrace of a department store on the site.
The scene is also depicted in a nocturnal watercolour lit by tongues of yellow fire encroaching at the left-hand edge, known until recently as ‘A conflagration, Lausanne’ (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester).2 Ian Warrell has noted that the same local newspaper of 14 September 1840 recording Turner’s stay in the city3 also contained an account of a nearby fire in the early hours of the previous day, suggesting that the artist was either already at the hotel to see it or heard of it very soon afterwards.4 For further discussion of the fire subject in relation to other Regensburg watercolours on white paper, see under D31357 and the Introduction to the Venice, Passau to Würzburg book; its other pencil studies around the city are listed under Tate D31311 (Turner Bequest CCCX 18a).
Although the flame-like effect here, heightened by contrast with the cool grey of the paper, might give the impression of another blaze, it appears to be a straightforward impression of the sun setting over the west end of the square, dashed in over a hastily rendered pencil sketch of the surroundings. The otherwise unremarkable event, so frequently depicted by Turner, on this occasion reminded him of golden effects in the work of one of his important influences, the seventeenth-century landscape painter Aelbert Cuyp; similar annotations appear more predictably in his Dutch sketchbooks of 1817 and 1825 and elsewhere.5 He seems to have been in a particularly reflective mood around this time, as notes on nearby sketches in the Venice, Passau to Würzburg book refer to Cuyp’s contemporary, Claude Lorrain (Tate D31347; Turner Bequest CCCX 36a), and to Turner’s own late counterpart, Thomas Girtin (D31410; CCCX 68).
Powell 1995, pp.167–8.
As given in Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.474 no.1455, reproduced, as ?1836; see David Hill, Joseph Mallord William Turner: Le Mont-Blanc et la Vallée d’Aoste, exhibition catalogue, Museo Archeologico Regionale, Aosta / Musée Archéologique Régional, Aoste, 2000, p.257, Charles Nugent, British Watercolours in the Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester: A Summary Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolours by Artists born before 1880, London and Manchester 2002, p.268 no.D.1912.7, as ‘The Neupfarrkirche, Regensburg, Germany’, reproduced p.269, Morris 2013, p.36, as ‘A Conflagration, Regensburg, Germany: the Neupfarrkirche from an upper floor of the Drei Helmen Hotel’, 1840, reproduced in colour p.37, and Warrell 2015, p.4 fig.2, as ‘Regensburg: the Neupfarrplatz at Night, with a Nearby Fire’, c.1840.
See Powell 1995, p.81 note 43.
See Warrell 2015, p.5.
See Fred Bachrach, ‘Cuyp, Aelbert (1620 – 91), in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann eds., The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.69–70.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1022.
Finberg 1930, p.175.
See Powell 1995, pp.167–8.
See Bower 1999, pp.105, 107 no.59, with one side of the overall arrangement reproduced in colour p.69, the other in black and white p.106.
Ibid., pp.105, 107.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

Reproduced when unmounted, ibid., p.106.

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