Joseph Mallord William Turner

Trarbach and the Grevenburg


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 140 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXI A

Catalogue entry

This tranquil scene depicts Trarbach at the base of the Moselle valley. It is overlooked by the vestiges of Grevenburg Castle situated ‘high in the heavens, upon an abrupt ridge of rocks’.1 Turner has employed a muted palette of blue, mauve, lavender, and pale yellow-green with brief flashes of rust red and opaque white. The artist’s handling is loose and free: he has applied wash in broad translucent sections, layering them in places with smudges of gouache. Details such as the striations of the cliffs and the illuminated town are rendered with a dry brush to achieve textural as well as tonal difference.
There is no single preparatory sketch for this drawing. Rather, Cecilia Powell suggests that the artist instead may have recorded the prospect on the spot, directly onto the blue paper.2
For other pencil sketches of Trarbach and the Grevenburg see the Trèves to Cochem and Coblenz to Mayence sketchbook (Tate D28390–D28395, D28400–D28401; Turner Bequest CCXC 20a–23, 25a–26) and the First Mossel and Oxford sketchbook of the 1839 tour (Tate D28308, D28310; Turner Bequest CCLXXXIX 9a, 10a). For other 1839 colour drawings see Tate D20223, D20240, D20259; Turner Bequest CCXX P, CCXXI G, Z). There are earlier drawings in the Rivers Meuse and Moselle and Moselle (or Rhine) sketchbooks of 1824 (Tate D19765–D19766, D19768, D19771, D20186, D20191; Turner Bequest CCXVI 108a–109, 110, 11a, CCXIX 25, 30).
Michael Joseph Quin, Steam voyages on the Seine, the Moselle, & the Rhine: with railroad visits to the principal cities of Belgium, London 1843, p.15.
Powell 1991, p.135 no.60.
Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCXXI–A’ bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘12a’ and ‘CCXXI–A’ at centre. There is also a single diagonal streak of orange wash near top right.

Alice Rylance-Watson
September 2013

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