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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Le Havre: Tour de François Ier c.1832

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Le Havre: Tour de François Ier c.1832
Turner Bequest CCLIX 134
Gouache and watercolour with pen on blue paper, 140 x 192 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLIX – 134’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
By Robert Wallace in 1833, published in 1853.
In this watercolour, Turner portrays a sailing boat and a steam-tug by the Tower of François Ier (subsequently destroyed in 18611) at the port of Le Havre in northern France. The warm yellow shades of sunset turning to twilight in the sky, and the auburn tones of the sails, as well as the yellow flame burning in the light-tower at left, provide a contrast with the lilac and violet colours with which the tower is depicted. Streaks of blue and yellow in the foreground evocatively convey the calm movement of water. The juxtaposition of steamboats and sailboats as symbols of new and old is a motif in Turner’s art. It is also presented in two other watercolours in this series, Between Quillebeuf and Villequier,c.1832 (Tate D24669; Turner Bequest CCLIX 104), Light-Towers of la Hève (Vignette), c.1832 (D24701; CCLIX 136) and most famously in Turner’s oil painting The Fighting ‘Temeraire’ of 1839 (Turner Bequest, National Gallery, London2).3 Art historian Judy Egerton4 draws attention to a similar juxtaposition of boat and tower in the painting, Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba, 1648 (National Gallery, London),5 by the renowned French artist Claude Lorraine, whom Turner admired.
The watercolour was based on pencil sketches (Tate D23482–D23483; Turner Bequest CCLI 13a–14) in Turner’s Rouen, Le Havre, Caen, Bayeux and Isigny sketchbook from 1826, and others (Tate D23976–D23977; Turner Bequest CCLIV 48a, 49) in his Seine and Paris sketchbook from 1832.6
An engraving was made from the watercolour by Robert Wallace in 1833, as Havre (Tate impression T04699) for the volume Wanderings by the Seine of 18347 (listed as ‘Havre: Tower of Francis I’ in the ‘List of Engravings’). In the engraving, the letters ‘CB’ have been added to the sail of the boat at right, as have two figures further right.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.229–31 no.377, pl.381 (colour)
Lyles 1992, p.61; Egerton, Wyld and Roy 1995, pp.62, 64, 85.
Egerton, Wyld and Roy 1995, p.86.
Inventory no.NG14.
Warrell 1999, p.273.
Leitch Ritchie, Wanderings by the Seine, London, Paris and Berlin 1834, opposite p. p.28.
Previous records note the inscription ‘Havre de Grace No 4/ 2’, however at the time of writing the work was on loan and not available for inspection and confirmation.

Caroline South
November 2017

How to cite

Caroline South, ‘Le Havre: Tour de François Ier 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-le-havre-tour-de-francois-ier-r1195808, accessed 27 June 2022.