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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Boat Sailing on the River Seine at Rouen 1821

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 15 Recto:
Boat Sailing on the River Seine at Rouen 1821
Turner Bequest CCLVIII 15
Pencil on white wove paper, 123 x 118 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ‘Cup’ upper centre beneath the sketch
Inscribed in red ink by John Ruskin ‘15’ top right running vertically
Stamped in black ‘CCLVIII – 15’ top right running vertically
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This rather modest sketch of a sail boat, drawn at the head of the page, has proved to be an important piece of evidence for dating this sketchbook and identifying one of Turner’s oil sketches. Ian Warrell has linked the sketch to another drawing of the same boat on a loose sheet of paper that once belonged to the Paris, Seine and Dieppe sketchbook, which proves that the two books were used on the same tour of northern France in 1821 (Tate D25519; Turner Bequest CCLXIII (a) 4).1 That sketch, which includes the towers of Rouen Cathedral in the background and a punt at the left, provides the composition for an oil sketch made around 1827–8 (Tate N03386) that was once thought to be an Italian subject.2 The boat can also be connected to a watercolour and gouache study executed around 1832: Tate D24727 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 162).3
Finberg noted the inscription ‘Cup’ at the bottom of the sketch, which has been interpreted as one of Turner’s many references to the Dutch artist Aelbert Cuyp (1620–1691) as an indication of a golden yellow hue.4 The yellow sail of the boat in the oil study, and a shaft of golden light on its stern are an indication of Turner’s adoption of the Cuypian style of marine painting.

Thomas Ardill
February 2013

Warrell 1999, p.24.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.179 no.317 as Fishing Boat in a Mist, 1828; Warrell 1999, p.268 under no.55 as A Sail Boat, Rouen, ?1827–8.
Warrell 1999, pp.24, 268 under no.55.
Joll, Butlin and Herrmann 2001, p.69.

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Boat Sailing on the River Seine at Rouen 1821 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, February 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, August 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-boat-sailing-on-the-river-seine-at-rouen-r1146315, accessed 05 December 2021.