Joseph Mallord William Turner

Two Distant Views of Liège from the South-West


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 94 × 154 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 16 a

Catalogue entry

With the sketchbook orientated horizontally, Turner has lightly sketched the beginnings of a panoramic view of Liège, leaving the majority of it undeveloped. The citadel is atop the heights on the left with the bend of the Meuse River in the valley below. The square tower and low dome of the Tour Saint-Denis and St Andrew’s Church appear to have been suggested at the left across the middle register and at the right, the spire of St Paul’s Cathedral.
At the bottom right corner of the sheet is the third view with the Meuse at centre and the suggestion of the valley topography surrounding it. The vertical lines at the right are likely suggestions of factory chimneys, Liège being a thriving industrial city with numerous ironworks and manufactories.1 The factory chimneys reappear on the following folio (Tate D28074; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 17). These sketches form the basis of a gouache and watercolour drawing on blue paper (see Tate D20283; Turner Bequest CCXXII X). The Turner scholar, Cecilia Powell, writes that because these pencil sketches show ‘merely the bare bones of the scene, the whole of the vast painted prospect, with its innumerable touches of colour, must have been based on memory’.2
For Turner’s earlier views of the city see the Rivers Meuse and Moselle sketchbook of 1824 (Tate D19598, D19636–D19638, D20061–D20064; Turner Bequest CCXVI 24, 43a–44a, 260a–262); the Huy and Dinant sketchbook of the same date (Tate D20084, D20095–D20103; Turner Bequest CCXVII 1, 8–12); the Holland, Meuse and Cologne sketchbook of 1825 (Tate D19446–D19447, D19520–D19521; Turner Bequest CCXV 25a–26, 71a–72); and the Holland sketchbook of the same date (Tate D19160; Turner Bequest CCXIV 162). There are also drawings of Liège in the 1833 Brussels up to Mannheim–Rhine sketchbook (Tate D29669–D29670, D29673; Turner Bequest CCXCVI 37a–38, 39a).

Alice Rylance-Watson
April 2013

Powell 1991, p.152, no.85.

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