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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Dinant from the South-East: Evening c.1839

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Dinant from the South-East: Evening c.1839
Turner Bequest CCXX T
Gouache, pen and ink and watercolour on blue wove paper, 139 x 191 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCXX T’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Here Turner pictures the Belgian city of Dinant at sunset bathed in a glowing yellow-green light. This radiant effect is achieved by applying dilute washes of yellow watercolour and gouache onto the blue wove paper, building up the pigment in layers around a pure white gouache orb which represents the setting sun. A band of blue-grey watercolour is used to differentiate the vertiginous limestone cliffs, the citadel, the River Meuse and its banks. Applied to wetted paper, this blue-grey has dispersed, bleeding and feathering into the yellow base to produce a striking diffused effect.
The citadel occupies a commanding position atop a ridge at right. Directly below it, stands the Church of Notre-Dame with its slender tower and teardrop-shaped dome. These landmarks, and the townscape which extends outwards from the banks of the river and from the foot of the cliff, are sketched into the scene with swift and slight pen and brown ink. The sloping terrain at the right, trudged by a bow-backed man with walking stick, is highlighted in a sharper mustard yellow.
Turner curator Maurice Davies points out that the artist has most likely accentuated the curve of the crenellated building in the foreground. This was a perspectival strategy to increase ‘any convexity present in pastoral landscapes’ and thus ‘to avoid the narrow, hard-edged views of standard perspective and suggest the full extent of nature’.1
The drawing is closely based on a pencil sketch in the Spa, Dinant, and Namur sketchbook of the same date (Tate D28094; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 27 a). For other of Turner’s 1839 gouaches of Dinant see Tate D20228–D20229, D24724; Turner Bequest CCXX U–V, CCLIX 159.
Davies 1992, p.96 fig.129.
Inscribed in pencil ‘8b’ at top towards right; stamped ‘CCXX T’ towards bottom right.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2013

How to cite

Alice Rylance-Watson, ‘Dinant from the South-East: Evening c.1839 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, June 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, November 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-dinant-from-the-south-east-evening-r1150948, accessed 23 January 2022.