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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Distant View of Liège with Factories c.1839

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Distant View of Liège with Factories c.1839
Turner Bequest CCXXII X
Gouache and watercolour on blue wove paper, 137 x 190 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCXXII X’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This drawing of Liège represents the city as a flourishing industrial hub. According to the travel writer Bartholomew Stritch, Liège manufactured ‘principally in the iron way’ and was the ‘most thriving town in Belgium’.1 Stritch calls the city ‘the Birmingham’ of Belgium for its metalwork, but, ‘like its namesake, it lies under a canopy of smoke, has a thick and murky atmosphere, dingy houses and dirty streets’.2
Turner’s Liège clearly bears little resemblance to Stritch’s: it is cleansed, picturesque, and uncluttered, the drawing executed in a flattering palette of soft pastels. The factories, rendered in warm rust-red, are tinged with a little black, perhaps to suggest at least some of the soot and smoke of industry.
The composition is based on two rough pencil drawings in the Spa, Dinant, and Namur sketchbook of 1839 (Tate D28073–D28074; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 16a–17). There is another 1839 gouache of the city taken from the Pont des Arches looking towards the Maison Curtius and other landmarks (Tate D24664; Turner Bequest CCLIX 99).
Bartholomew Stritch, The Meuse, the Moselle, and the Rhine; or, A six weeks' tour through the finest river scenery in Europe, London 1845, p.13.
Inscribed in pencil ‘30a’ at centre towards top right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCXXII–X’ at bottom left; inscribed in red ink (probably by Ruskin) ‘?1701’.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2013

How to cite

Alice Rylance-Watson, ‘Distant View of Liège with Factories 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-distant-view-of-liege-with-factories-r1150982, accessed 25 June 2022.