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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Rouen from the Mont-aux-Malades c.1829-30

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Rouen from the Mont-aux-Malades c.1829–30
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 94
Watercolour on white wove paper, 357 x 508 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Finberg: ‘Ruse & Turners | 1828’
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 94’ bottom right
Inscribed in red ink ‘94’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
At first glance this ‘colour beginning’, with a broad valley and a steep hill beyond to the left, has little by way of specific landmarks to establish its subject, and Finberg called it simply a ‘Park, with river in middle distance’.1 Eric Shanes proposed that it was based on a pencil drawing in the 1811 Somerset and North Devon sketchbook (Tate D08952; Turner Bequest CXXVI 6) which he thought showed Porlock (although it may be neighbouring Minehead), and related it to another colour study showing similar terrain (Tate D36222; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 360), possibly at Dunster, also nearby along the Somerset coast.2 He suggested the two could have been made ‘during the same session of work ... some time after 1833’,3 in relation to the ongoing Picturesque Views in England and Wales project (see the ‘England and Wales Colour Studies c.1825–39’ section of this catalogue).
However, Ian Warrell has since convincingly identified a quite different subject: the French city of Rouen (capital of Normandy) seen from the Mont-aux-Malades, looking south-east with the Mont Ste-Catherine rising to the left.4 Inconspicuous vertical strokes of wash to the right of the hill represent spires against light glinting off the River Seine beyond (suggested by a narrow band of bare paper); these features are juxtaposed in a detailed drawing in pen and ink over pencil on blue paper (Tate D24900; Turner Bequest CCLX 64), one of a number in that mode which Warrell has placed at about ‘?1827–9’.5
Turner travelled along the Seine in 1821, 1826, 1828, 1829 and 1832,6 and the city was surveyed in detail in the pencil sketches of the 1821 Dieppe, Rouen and Paris, 1826 Rouen, and ?1829 Tancarville and Lillebonne sketchbooks (Tate; Turner Bequest CCLVIII, CCLV, CCLIII). As well as numerous other studies in ink and gouache on blue paper, Turner produced several finished gouache designs on the same support in the early 1830s, were engraved for the 1834 volume of Charles Heath’s Turner’s Annual Tour, Wanderings by the Seine: see Tate D24672–D24674 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 107–109)7 and another in a private collection.8
There is also a watercolour (Manchester Art Gallery)9 engraved in 1836 for the works of Walter Scott as Rouen – Distant View (Tate impressions: T04760, T04992). Although from a different angle, the prospect from a high vantage point towards spires and hills perhaps gives some sense of how a design might have evolved from the present loose washes. Warrell has proposed the present sheet as likely relating to another of Heath’s schemes, the annual Keepsake volumes to which Turner contributed from 1828;10 see the Introduction to this section.
Finberg 1909, II, p.821.
Se Shanes 1997, pp.82, 96.
Ibid., p.82.
See Warrell 1999, pp.186, 268.
See Warrell 1999, pp.266–8 nos.23–44.
See Ian Warrell, ‘Seine’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.289.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, pp.413–14 nos.963–965, reproduced.
Ibid., p.414 no.966, as untraced; Warrell 1999, fig.168 (colour).
Ibid., p.434 no.1130, reproduced.
Alfrey 1981, p.527.
Blank; inscribed in pencil CCLXIII 94’ and ‘AB 93 P | O’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Rouen from the Mont-aux-Malades c.1829–30 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2017, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, July 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-rouen-from-the-mont-aux-malades-r1186609, accessed 23 May 2024.