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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Falls of the Rhine, Schaffhausen c.1807-19

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Falls of the Rhine, Schaffhausen circa 1807–19
Vaughan Bequest CXVIII Z
Watercolour on white wove lightweight writing paper, 229 x 296 mm
Watermark ‘J Whatman
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Henry Vaughan by 1878
(see main catalogue entry)
Numerous pencil drawings of the Rhine falls at Schaffhausen, Switzerland, date from Turner’s first Continental tour in 1802. Of several viewpoints, the sketch most closely relating to the present composition – traditionally categorised as an unengraved design for the Liber Studiorum – is Tate D04877 (Turner Bequest LXXIX C) looking southwards across the falls, albeit with the nearest group of buildings directly below those on the skyline; additional details were probably taken from Tate D02230 (Turner Bequest XLVII 53) in the Fonthill sketchbook, and Tate D04875 (Turner Bequest LXXIX A).
Turner had exhibited an oil painting, Fall of the Rhine at Schaffhausen, at the Royal Academy in 1806 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)1 showing the view from below the falls on the opposite bank, and effectively reversed the main lines of the composition in a watercolour of about 1831–2 (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery),2 with the falls from below and to the right of the present drawing’s viewpoint; and around 1841 he made an series of atmospheric watercolours of the town and falls, of which some compositions relate more closely to present work.3
In the absence of specific evidence, the span of the Liber Studiorum’s active publication, 1807–19, is suggested here as a date range for the present work (as it is for various other unpublished designs). In the 1840s, Turner seems to have used this composition as the basis of one of a series of oil paintings reinterpreting the Liber, perhaps prompted by his limited reprinting of the engravings in 1845 (see general Liber introduction for details); the painting has traditionally been known as The Val d’Aosta, is in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.4 It has previously been linked with late Alpine landscapes (Tate N05476 and N05468),5 and to the Liber print of Ben Arthur;6 no architecture is evident, but the main masses are close to those of the present drawing.7 Although the other late Liber paintings could have been made using the 1845 impressions as guides, Turner would presumably have referred to the drawing itself or related works in this case.
The present work belonged to Henry Vaughan by 1878,8 and in 1896 Frank Short etched and mezzotinted the composition,9 as one of his interpretations of the unengraved Liber designs (Tate T0507110 and T05072;11 see general Liber introduction).
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.48–9 no.61, pl.72 (colour).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, reproduced p.188 pl.206, p.345 no.406.
Ibid., p.475 no.1462, reproduced, p.476 nos.1465–7, reproduced (in particular no.1466).
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.305 no.520, pl.524 (colour).
Ibid., p.305 nos.521 and 522, pls. 522 and 523 (colour) respectively.
Rawlinson 1878, p.138 no.69; 1906, pp.162–3 no.69; Alexander J. Finberg, The History of Turner’s Liber Studiorum with a New Catalogue Raisonné, London 1924, pp.273–6 no.69; Martin Butlin, Andrew Wilton and John Gage, Turner 1775–1851, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1974, p.158, cited in Butlin and Joll 1984, p.305.
See David Hill, Joseph Mallord William Turner: Le Mont-Blanc et la Vallée d’Aoste, exhibition catalogue, Museo Archeologico Regionale, Aosta / Musée Archéologique Régional, Aoste, 2000, p.258.
Rawlinson 1878, p.171.
Hardie 1938, p.71 no.38, reproduced p.[113] pl.XVII.
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986 – 88, London 1996, p.76.
Ibid., pp.76–7, reproduced p.77.
Technical notes:
Untypically among the Liber-type drawings, watercolour brushstrokes were first used to outline the buildings and rocks, then filled in with wash. In the foreground, washes were followed by brushwork, as usual; the brushstrokes were done in a very wet medium. The lights were reserved, with no scratching- or washing-out. Some of the more medium-rich washes are cracking. The overall cool brown colour results from the use of an umber pigment.1 The sheet is among five unengraved Liber-type drawings once owned by Henry Vaughan of which four ‘certainly, and all five probably, derive from the “Studies for Liber” sketchbook’,2 some leaves of which are watermarked ‘J Whatman | 1807’ (Tate; Turner Bequest CXV); the others are Tate D08179, D08181–D08183 (Vaughan Bequest CXVIII Y, a, b, c).
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
Forrester 1996, pp.16, 25 note 86 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8); see also Bower, Tate conservation files.
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘Z | 93’ top centre, and ‘D08180’ bottom right

Matthew Imms
May 2006

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Falls of the Rhine, Schaffhausen c.1807–19 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, May 2006, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-falls-of-the-rhine-schaffhausen-r1131790, accessed 17 June 2024.