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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Loire, Tours, Orleans and Paris Sketchbook 1826

Turner Bequest CCXLIX
Sketch book bound in green and black speckled boards
46 leaves of white laid paper
Watermark of bunch of grapes
Approximate page size 153 x 103 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Bound in boards with green and black paper covers, this French-made pocket sketchbook contains pencil drawings of the Loire Valley and Paris which Turner made on a tour of northern France in the late summer and early autumn of 1826. The artist appears to have followed an upstream course up the River Loire, making use of this particular volume on the leg of the journey between the cities of Tours and Orléans, before taking up his pencil again in the capital city. As laid out in the introduction to this tour, the great popularity of picturesque and antiquarian French subjects amongst British audiences around this time was very likely the major motivation behind this journey up the Loire. Turner certainly made extensive record here of the region’s wooded riverside terrain and its abundance of medieval edifices. The artist cultivated a long-term interest in Paris, with this tour marking the fifth of eight visits to the city between 1802 and 1832.1 Much of the material gathered in this sketchbook was subsequently worked up into colour studies and finished watercolours as he worked to supply illustrations for Turner’s Annual Tour: Wanderings by the Loire and Seine (1833–5; later reissued as Rivers of France).2
Turner seems to have filled the sketchbook from front to back in a broadly methodical fashion, first recording the Loire views as he encountered them between Tours and Orléans before filling the later pages with Parisian subjects. This general rule nonetheless is broken at several points in the volume. For example, folio 8 verso (D23261; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 8a) features a view of Tours seen the nearby hillside settlement of Saint-Cyr as well as a depiction of Beaugency, located some fifty-five miles further upstream along the Loire River. Turner also seems to have left some of the earlier pages blank as he worked his way up the river, returning to these pages at Paris when he ran of space at the back of the book; see, for example, folio 3 verso (D23251; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 3a). Some of the drawings in the sketchbook are loose and cursory in character, such as the interior study of the Church of Saint-Julien at Tours on folio 14 recto (D23272; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 14). A higher level of detail is more common however, with the particular attention often being paid to points of architecture ornamentation as in the study of the western front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame at Paris on folio 9 verso (D23263; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 9a).
Turner made considerable study of Tours, visiting its major monuments and travelling the surrounding countryside searching for riverside views and high vantages that might do justice to the city’s picturesque agglomeration of bridges and gothic towers.3 The results of these efforts can be found on the following pages: Folios 1 verso (D23247; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 1a) to 2 verso (D23249; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 2a); Folios 4 recto (D23252; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 4) to 5 verso (D23255; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 5a); Folios 6 recto (D23256 ; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 6) to 9 recto (D23262; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 9); Folios 10 recto (D23264; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 10) to 11 recto (D23266; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 11); Folios 12 verso (D23269; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 12a) to 15 Verso (D23334; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 45a).
As he made the thirty-five mile journey upstream to Orléans, taking in the settlements of Blois and Beaugency along the way, Turner’s major concern continued to be with capturing the appearance of ancient towns, and especially their relation to the hills of the Loire Valley and the sweeping curves of the river as it meanders through the region.4 The studies of Blois can be found on the following pages: Folio 1 recto (D23246; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 1 ); Folio 11 verso (D23267; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 11a); Folio 12 recto (D23268; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 12); Folios 19 recto (D23280; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 18) to 24 verso (D23291; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 23a); Folio 30 verso (D23335; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 46). Beaugency features on Folio 26 recto (D23294; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 25); Folios 27 verso (D23297; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 26a) to 29 recto (D23300; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 28). Various views of Orléans appear on Folios 31 Recto (D23302; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 29) to 33 Recto (D23306; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 31); Folios 34 Verso (D23309; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 32a) to 36 verso (D23313; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 34a).
As in the Loire views in this volume, Turner concentrated his energies at Paris on studies of riverside architecture and bridges. Here, however, was to be found a greater density and variety of subjects. So alongside drawings of the ancient arched stone bridges that crossed the Seine in the capital are also depictions of modern suspension bridges; see, for example, the sketch on Folio 39 verso (D23318; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 37a). The renaissance and baroque complexes of Les Invalides and the Palais du Louvre are also well-represented amongst the various quayside subjects. The Paris subjects are recorded on Folio 3 verso (D23251; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 3a); Folio 9 verso (D23263; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 9a); Folio 28 verso (D23299; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 27a); Folio 29 recto (D23300; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 28); Folio 33 verso (D23307; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 31a); Folio 37 verso (D23315; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 35a); Folio 38 recto (D23316; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 36); Folios 39 recto (D23317; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 37) to 41 verso (D23322; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 39a); Folio 42 verso (D23324; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 40a); Folios 44 recto (D23327; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 42) to 45 verso (D23330; Turner Bequest CCXLIX 43a).
Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.214.
Luke Herrmann, Turner Prints: The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 1990, pp. 164–6, 171–83.
Ian Warrell, Turner on the Loire, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, pp.115–26.
Ibid., pp.126–55.

John Chu
May 2015

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How to cite

John Chu, ‘Loire, Tours, Orleans and Paris Sketchbook 1826’, sketchbook, May 2015, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, March 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/loire-tours-orleans-and-paris-sketchbook-r1185080, accessed 16 January 2021.