Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Rham Plateau, Luxembourg, from the Alzette Valley

c.1839

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Gouache, pen and ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 140 × 193 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D24742
Turner Bequest CCLIX 177

Catalogue entry

Here Turner depicts the Rham plateau at Luxembourg, the silhouette of its imposing fortifications rendered in maroon at right. Sheer cliffs flank the Alzette river valley to the left and right, and the waterway itself is suggested with a flash of bright azure gouache at centre. Dark green hatching, stipples, and short scalloped lines suggest the vegetation which creeps up into the foothills of the valley. As Cecilia Powell notes, the scene has a rather ‘brooding’ atmosphere to it, evoking the diminishing light of sundown.1
This gouache is derived from a rough pencil sketch in the Givet, Mézières, Verdun, Metz, Luxemburg and Trèves sketchbook (see Tate D28266; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVIII 56 a). For other of Turner’s 1839 gouaches of Luxembourg see Tate D20244–D20249, D20264, D20270, D20272–D20273, D20284–D20285, N05240; Turner Bequest CCXXI K–CCXXI P, CCXXII E, CCXXII K, CCXXII M–CCXXII N, CCXXII Y–CCXXII Z.
The English gentleman-artist Hercules Brabazon Brabazon (1821–1906) produced a watercolour drawing loosely based on this gouache, a work dubbed as a ‘souvenir’ of the original.2 There was an established practice of studying, copying, and emulating Turner’s drawings, particularly expounded by the art critic and writer John Ruskin in the mid to later decades of the nineteenth century. For example, in his 1857 publication The Elements of Drawing, Ruskin exhorted his readers to copy Turner’s watercolours at London’s National Gallery, including a list of approved examples from which to work.3
1
Powell 1991, p.177 no.123.
2
Moorby and Warrell (eds.) 2010, p.21.
3
Ibid.
Verso:
Inscribed in chalk or white gouache ‘2’ at top right; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLIX 177’ at bottom right.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2013

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