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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Rouen, Looking Upriver c.1832

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Rouen, Looking Upriver c.1832
Turner Bequest CCLIX 107
Gouache and watercolour on blue paper, 140 x 192 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLIX – 107’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
By Robert Brandard in 1833, published in 1834.
In this watercolour Turner depicts the busy quay, the Quai du Havre, on the Seine riverside in the city of Rouen in northern France. Rouen Cathedral is shown in the middle distance on the left. Behind this the tower of the Church of Saint-Maclou is visible and beyond this Turner places the tower of the Abbey of Saint-Ouen, gleaming white above the old arched bridge on the right. Boats are indicated on the water in the middle distance at centre and left, at far right and in the foreground at left and right. The bright, clear light and activity on the waterside evoke morning. Turner uses delicate washes of watercolour and touches of gouache on the blue background paper to convey water and reflections within it. This watercolour provides a companion view to another work in the series, Rouen, Looking Downstream, c.1832 (Tate D24673, Turner Bequest CCLIX 108).
Rouen Cathedral had been destroyed by fire in 1822 and reconstruction began in 1827, five years before this watercolour was made, but Turner based it on an earlier pencil sketch (Tate D24542; Turner Bequest CCLVIII 22a) from his 1821 Dieppe, Rouen and Paris sketchbook.1 As art historian Anne Lyles states, referred to very detailed studies he had made of Rouen Cathedral during his tour of northern France in 1821, but was also influenced by sketches on later visits to the city, namely in the Tancarville and Lillebonne sketchbook, believed to date from 1829, the Rouen sketchbook, believed to date from 1826, and the Seine and Paris sketchbook from 1832 (Tate; Turner Bequest CCLIII, CCLV and CCLIV), as these show greater interest in the prospect with the cathedral often depicted, as in the watercolour, in the middle distance.2
An engraving was made of this watercolour by Robert Brandard in 1833, as Rouen (Tate impressions T05604 and T06234) for the volume Wanderings by the Seine of 18343 (titled ‘Rouen, looking up the river’ in the ‘List of Engravings’).,
Warrell 1999, p.275.
Lyles 1992, p.59; Alfrey 1982, p.415.
Leitch Ritchie, Wanderings by the Seine, London, Paris and Berlin 1834, opposite p.124.
Blank, except for an inscription ‘16’ in grey gouache in the upper left of the sheet, probably made by Turner. The number ‘6’ has been written in white chalk at the lower right and some horizontal white chalk lines also appear on the upper left. The lower centre is stamped with the Turner Bequest monogram above the number ‘CCLIX – 107’, which is also written in pencil in the lower right corner.

Caroline South
November 2017

How to cite

Caroline South, ‘Rouen, Looking Upriver 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-rouen-looking-upriver-r1195799, accessed 25 May 2022.