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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Grenoble: the River Isère and Pont St Laurent 1802

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Grenoble: the River Isère and Pont St Laurent 1802
Turner Bequest LXXIV 14
Pencil, black chalk and white gouache on greyish-buff laid paper, 214 x 284 mm
Stamped in black ‘LXXIV A’ bottom right
Blind-stamped with the Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
For Turner’s visit to Grenoble in 1802 see Introduction to the sketchbook and notes to D04495; Turner Bequest LXXIV 3.
Turner’s label for this drawing is inscribed ‘Ville de Grenoble Mt Blanc’ [sic]. From the south bank of the River Isère, Turner looks towards the wooden Pont de St Laurent in the general direction of the Porte de Savoie. The bridge, reinforced with stone piers to judge from the drawing, was for a long time Grenoble’s only bridge across the Isère. In 1837 it was replaced by a suspension bridge, the Passarelle St Laurent. Buildings include the fourteenth-century Tour de l’Île, part of the old city fortifications which had housed the French army of occupation in 1792, and on the far right a spire, perhaps that of Saint-André, the former chapel of the Dauphins, or the Cathedral. On the left, ramparts climb the slope to the Bastille. The Belledonne massif is visible in the background but not Mont Blanc, as Turner seems to have thought and as was repeated by the present writer in the 1999 Tate/Martigny catalogue. For comments and corrections, the author is grateful to Roland Courtot of the University of Aix-en-Provence.1
The initial ‘F’ on Turner’s label denotes a possible commission from Walter Fawkes. However, the subject is not included in the list of works for Fawkes in the Greenwich sketchbook (Tate D06824; Turner Bequest CII 52) but seems to have been assigned instead to his friend Edward Swinburne; ‘Ed Swinburne 40 Gn Grenoble’ is noted elsewhere in the same book (D16721; Turner Bequest CII 1) and at some point Turner also included ‘14 Grenoble’ in a list of French and Swiss subjects on the back of a random pencil sketch (Tate D08253; Turner Bequest CXX m). Nevertheless it was apparently only in 1824 that Turner produced the large watercolour Grenoble Bridge (Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland)2 for another patron, Charles Holford. Accordingly, in his catalogue notes for Marlborough House, John Ruskin wrote of this subject; ‘Exquisitely realised ... in a large drawing now in the possession of Mrs. Holford, of Hampstead’.3
Developed from the present drawing via progressive colour studies (Tate D25515, D25491, D25469, D25490; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 391 (add), 368, 346, 367), the Holford watercolour shows more boats, washerwomen and their laundry beside the river and builders at work on the left-hand pier of the bridge, and identifies the building on the far left as an inn offering ‘BON LOGIS ICI | A PIED A CHEVAL’. Otherwise its sunlit effect is prefigured in the 1802 drawing in the highlights of white gouache on buildings and snow-capped mountains; the other view of the city from this sketchbook, including the Porte de France and a different bridge (D04507; Turner Bequest LXXIV 14a), is also notable for its brightness.
For another Swinburne commission from this sketchbook, of a view of Lake Brienz, see notes to D04536; Turner Bequest LXXIV 43.
Email dated 14 March 2012; copy in Tate catalogue files.
Wilton 1979, p.345 no.404.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.266.
Blank, inscribed by ?John Ruskin in red ink ‘117 14’, perhaps by later hand in pencil ‘no14’, and by other hands ‘LXXV 2’ (crossed through) and ‘LXXIV A’

David Blayney Brown
March 2012

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Grenoble: the River Isère and Pont St Laurent 1802 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2012, 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-grenoble-the-river-isere-and-pont-st-laurent-r1146376, accessed 23 June 2024.