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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Saint-Germain-en-Laye c.1829-31

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Saint-Germain-en-Laye c.1829–31
Watercolour on white wove paper, 353 x 508 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Inscribed in pencil ‘cclxiii 23’ towards bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Saint-Germain-en-Laye is now on the western fringes of Paris, and stands within an extensive loop of the meandering River Seine. This loose ‘colour beginning’ relates to a detailed drawing in pen and ink over pencil on blue paper (Tate D24904; Turner Bequest CCLX 68), one of a number of the site in that mode (see also Tate D24875, D24893, D24895–D24896; Turner Bequest CCLX 39, 57, 59, 60). Eric Shanes dated the relevant view to 1829,1 but Ian Warrell has placed it and the others at ‘?1827–9’;2 Turner travelled along the Seine in 1821, 1826, 1828, 1829 and 1832.3
The present work relates to a watercolour made between about 1829 and 1831 (Musée du Louvre, Paris),4 engraved for the 1832 edition of the annual Keepsake (Tate impressions: T04621–T04622, T06146; see the Introduction to this section). In the finished design the château, a former royal palace, is inconspicuous, set well back from the crest of the hill west of the Seine about a third of the way across from the left. It is not indicated here at all, but in first identifying the subject of what he characterised as a ‘highly abstractive watercolour,5 Shanes has analysed and linked most of the loose brushstrokes to specific compositional elements. As he has noted, the ‘strong diagonal line confidently wiped out from the underlying wet colour above and to the left of the bridge’6 foreshadows the sunlit route of the Rampe des Grottes up the terraced hillside, and is perhaps the key element in establishing a topographical connection. The wooden bridge Turner depicted was replaced by a stone structure a few years later,7 and trees and later buildings on the far bank have altered the view considerably above the modern Pont Georges Pompidou at this point.
Turner made further pencil drawings in the area in the 1832 Paris and Environs sketchbook (Tate D24307, D24405, D24484, D24488–D24489, D24491–D24493; Turner Bequest CCLVII 72, 121, 161a, 164, 164a, 165a, 166, 166a). Saint-Germain-en-Laye was one of six French subjects among the seventeen Turner contributed to the Keepsake; another showed nearby Marly, engraved for the same 1832 edition, as discussed under its ‘colour beginning’, Tate D25152 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 30).
For unknown reasons, the present sheet was not included in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory,8 although it has an early Turner Bequest blind stamp. The pencil number ‘cclxiii 23’ inscribed towards the bottom right is spurious, as it applies to Tate D25145 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 23), an unrelated colour study which Finberg did list.9
See Shanes 1997, p.47.
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, p.424 no.1045, pl.204.
Shanes 1997, p.29; see also pp.97, 99.
Ibid., p.48.
See Shanes 1997, p.49, and Warrell 1999, p.214.
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909.
See ibid., II, p.316; see Shanes 1997, p.48.
Technical notes:
There are parallel vertical folds about 40 mm in from the left. Faintly ruled pencil outlines, above, below and to the right, appear to have been introduced to focus the design within an area corresponding within a few millimetres to the finished watercolour’s trimmed dimensions of 299 x 457 mm.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘D.40520’ bottom left, and ‘AB94P | O’ towards bottom right.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Saint-Germain-en-Laye c.1829–31 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-saint-germain-en-laye-r1186613, accessed 23 May 2024.