J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook 1826

Turner Bequest CCL
Sketchbook bound in dark blue cardboard
62 leaves of white laid paper
Watermark ‘LMV’
Approximate page size 191 x 131 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Bound in dark blue cardboard covers, this French-made pocket sketchbook contains pencil drawings of the coast, countryside, and picturesque buildings of the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy. The tour on which Turner made use of this volume has not always been clear. In 1987, Tate curator Andrew Wilton listed it alongside the Caen and Isigny (Turner Bequest CCLI), Rouen (Turner Bequest CCLV) and Guernsey (CCLII) sketchbooks as part of material gathered on an 1829 visit to Northern France, and the Channel Islands.1 However, the present catalogue follows the 1826 dating first proposed by art historian Nicholas Alfrey in 1983,2 and subsequently seconded by Turner specialists Ian Warrell and J.R. Piggott.3 Responding to archival evidence uncovered by Normandy historian Jean-Paul Pasquette, which places Turner in the Hôtel de London in Cherbourg on Saturday 9th September 1826, Warrell is sure that that there should ‘be absolutely no doubt that this book records that year’s tour’ because the inside front cover (D41071) bears the note ‘Cherbourg Dimanche’, indicative of his activity there on the subsequent day.
The great popularity of picturesque and antiquarian French subjects amongst British audiences around this time was very likely the major motivation behind Turner’s work in the Cotentin Peninsula. As Warrell has observed, John Sell Cotman had already produced a successful series on the Cotentin city of Coutances by this date.4 More specifically, Turner may have had in mind a proposed series of engraved views of French side of the English Channel; certainly, slightly later colour studies of the coastal settlements of Granville, Mont Saint-Michel, and Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue based on drawings in the present sketchbook support this supposition. For the Granville colour studies, see Tate D25212 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 90), D25356 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 234), D25357 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 253), D25387 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 264). For the Mont Saint-Michel colour studies, see Tate D25342 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 220), D25379 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 256). For the Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue colour study, see Tate D20219 (Turner Bequest CCXX L).
Warrell suggests that the contents of this volume cover an intermediary stage in a longer tour of Northern France, following a journey though Upper Normandy, and prior to a tour up the Loire Valley to Paris.5 The itinerary Warrell proposes is as follows: Cherbourg, Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue, Valonges, Coutances, Granville, Avranches, and Mont Saint-Michel. Whatever his precise route, Turner was certainly not systematic in the order by which he recorded the sites he encountered along the way and the most frequently recurring subjects are scattered through the volume at random. The drawings are mainly loose in handling, suggesting rapid notations of interesting motifs. However, some of the architectural studies, especially those describing heavily-decorated ornamental facades, feature considerable detail. For an example of Turner’s more careful architectural studies in this sketchbook, see Folio 10 Recto (D23353; Turner Bequest CCL 10).
At the defended harbour towns of Cherbourg and Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue, Turner filled several pages of his sketchbook. For the drawings of Cherbourg, see Folios 2 Recto to 3 Recto (D23338–D23340; Turner Bequest CCL 2–3); 59 Verso (D23450; Turner Bequest CCL 59a). For Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue, see Folios 34 Verso (D23400; Turner Bequest CCL 34a); 50 Recto (D23431; Turner Bequest CCL 50); 3 Verso (D23438; Turner Bequest CCL 53a).
Much more prolific were his studies of the medieval towns of Coutances and Granville, perched in their picturesque surroundings, and his views of the dramatic island-settlement of Mont Saint-Michel. The Coutances studies focus on the gothic cathedral and the ruined aqueduct, sketched at close quarters and in wider landscape pieces. These are found on Folios 4 Verso (D23343; Turner Bequest CCL 4a); 8 Recto (D23350; Turner Bequest CCL 8); 9 Recto (D23352; Turner Bequest CCL 9); Folio 10 Recto (D23353; Turner Bequest CCL 10); 12 Recto (D23356; Turner Bequest CCL 12); 16 Recto (D23364; Turner Bequest CCL 16); 21 Verso (D23374; Turner Bequest CCL 21a); 28 Recto (D23387; Turner Bequest CCL 28); 31 Recto (D23393; Turner Bequest CCL 31); 32 Verso (D23396; Turner Bequest CCL 32a); 33 Recto (D23397; Turner Bequest CCL 33); 45 Verso (D23422; Turner Bequest CCL 45a); 51 Verso (D23434; Turner Bequest CCL 51a); 52 Recto to 53 Recto (D23435–D23457; Turner Bequest CCL 52–53.
At Granville, Turner took a particular interest in the way in which the town sits atop its rocky cliffs and made sketches from multiple angles. These can be found on Folio 5 Verso (D23345; Turner Bequest CCL 5a); Folio 6 Recto (D23346; Turner Bequest CCL 6); Folio 7 Recto (D23348; Turner Bequest CCL 7); Folio 7 Verso (D23349; Turner Bequest CCL 7a); Folio 15 Recto (D23362; Turner Bequest CCL 15); Folio 19 Verso (D23370; Turner Bequest CCL 19a); Folio 35 Recto (D23401; Turner Bequest CCL 35); Folio 38 Recto (D23407; Turner Bequest CCL 38).
Mont Saint-Michel is thoroughly observed in these pages, and Turner took care to record the island from a great number of directions and distances. The pages on which the island features are Folios 53 Recto (D23437; Turner Bequest CCL 53); 55 Verso (D23442; Turner Bequest CCL 55a); 58 Verso (D23448; Turner Bequest CCL 58a); 59 Recto (D23449; Turner Bequest CCL 59); 16 Verso (D23365; Turner Bequest CCL 16a); 17 Recto to 19 Recto (D23366- D23369; Turner Bequest CCL 17–19); 23 Verso to 28 Recto (D23378–D23387; Turner Bequest CCL 23a-28); 30 Verso (D23392; Turner Bequest CCL 30a); 31 Verso (D23394; Turner Bequest CCL 31a); 39 Recto (D23409; Turner Bequest CCL 39); 53 Recto (D23437; Turner Bequest CCL 53).
1
Andrew Wilton, Turner in his Time, London 1987, p.168. Wilton made the same dating in Turner in his Time, revised ed., London 2006, p.238.
2
John Gage, Jerrold Ziff, Nicholas Alfrey and others, J.M.W. Turner, à l’occasion du cinquantième anniversaire du British Council, exhibition catalogue, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris 1983, p.37.
3
Ian Warrell, Turner on the Loire, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, pp.31–4; J.R. Piggott, ‘Salerooms Report’, Turner Society News, no.106, August 2007, p.18.
4
Warrell, London 1997, p.32.
5
Ibid. pp.31–34.

John Chu
May 2015

Showing 1 - 30 of 124 artworks
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  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D41071
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23336
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Clouds 1826
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23337
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23338
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23339
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23340
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23341
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23342
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23343
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23344
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23345
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23346
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23347
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23348
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23349
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23350
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23351
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23352
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23353
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Blank 1826
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23354
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23355
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23356
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23357
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23358
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23359
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23360
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23361
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23362
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23363
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner
    Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook
    D23364
Showing 1 - 30 of 124 artworks

How to cite

John Chu, ‘Cherbourg, Coutances and Mont St Michel Sketchbook 1826’, sketchbook, May 2015, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, March 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/cherbourg-coutances-and-mont-st-michel-sketchbook-r1185174, accessed 28 November 2021.