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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Harfleur c.1832

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Harfleur c.1832
Turner Bequest CCLIX 102
Gouache and watercolour on blue paper, 138 x 192 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
By John Cousen in 1833, published in 1834.
In this watercolour Turner depicts boats in the harbour in the town of Harfleur, located on the Seine Estuary in northern France. The tower of the Church of Saint-Martin, Harfleur is identifiable in the background, highlighted in white gouache against its surrounding background of dark sky. Turner emphasises such contrasts of light and dark throughout the watercolour. The tower’s fair, pristine and soaring vertical shape is contrasted with the dark and horizontal, ribbed, carcass-like boat frame in the foreground. The dark shapes of the boat on the right contrast with the billowing white clouds of smoke on the left. The reflection of these white clouds contrasts further with the dark boat frame immediately below them. The figure in the right foreground is also conveyed in dramatically contrasting light and shade. Turner works his materials of watercolour, blue background paper and gouache together with particular subtlety to convey the shallow water against banks of land.
The watercolour is based on a pencil sketch (Tate D23708; Turner Bequest CCLIII 5a),1 with reference to another sketch (Tate D23707; Turner Bequest CCLIII 5),2 both from Turner’s Tancarville and Lillebonne sketchbook, believed to date from 1829.
An engraving was made from this watercolour by John Cousen in 1833, as Harfleur (Tate impressions T05596 and T06225) for the volume Wanderings by the Seine of 1834.3 The building on the hillside in the far-right background has been highlighted more intensely in the engraving than in the original watercolour.
Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.116; Wilton 1979, p.412; Warrell 1995, p.273.
Warrell 1995, p.273.
Leitch Ritchie, Wanderings by the Seine, London, Paris and Berlin 1834, opposite p.46.
Blank, except for an inscription ‘4’ in grey gouache in the upper left corner of the sheet, probably made by Turner. At centre of the sheet is a faint inscription possibly reading ‘[?17]’ in white chalk. The centre of the sheet is stamped, with the Turner Bequest monogram above the number ‘CCLIX -102’, which is also written in pencil above. There is some faint yellowish staining at lower right.

Caroline South
November 2017

How to cite

Caroline South, ‘Harfleur c.1832 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, November 2017, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, November 2019, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-harfleur-r1195794, accessed 27 June 2022.