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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Loose Studies of Northern France c.1826–32

Turner Bequest CCXX A–E, I, Ja, K, L, Q, R, CCXXI W, CCXXIV 27, 28, 173–184, 187, 188, 204–207, 212, 213, 216, 217, 224–227, CCLIX 8–10, 14, 16–18, 28, 31, 71, 72, 79, 91–8, 137, 138, 145, 147, 161, 163, 168, 183, 185, 186, 190, 191, 193, 194, 197, 199–206, 235–237, 260, 263b, 266, 270, CCLX 17, 21, 22, 34, 41–44, 46, 53, 56, 70, 71, 82–4, 88, 90 113, 115, 125, 132–134, CCLXI 63, 65–68, 84, 89, 110, 117, CCLXIII 26, 90, 220, 234, 235, 256, 264, 302, CCCXLIV d 56, d 58–62, d 82–85, d 145, d 173–176, d 242, d 243–247, d 426, CCCLXV b 31
The numerous sketches on loose sheets of paper grouped in this section are associated with Turner’s tour of Northern France in the late summer and early autumn of 1826. Composed on a variety of white and blue papers of different sizes, many of the works are little more than cursory pencil notations while others are relatively advanced colour studies, deploying watercolour, gouache, and inks.
This variety derives from the different uses and dates of the sketches, which were produced over a period of about six years. Some of the works in this section were worked onto the folded bundles of white and blue paper which Turner took with him on the tour itself and complemented the sketchbooks that were his main vehicle for taking quick records. The white wove sheets were sourced from the large tranche of paper he had stockpiled in the studio over previous decades.1 However, at this time he had only just started to experiment with working on the blue papers which went on to be become such important dimension of his graphic and watercolour practice in the late 1820s and throughout the 1830s.2 The view of the cathedral and gate to the bishop’s palace at Tours (Tate D24637; Turner Bequest CCLIX 72) probably began as pencil sketch taken on sit which Turner, once back in England, worked into the advanced colour study we see today. By contrast, one of the numerous views of Beaugency on the River Loire (Tate D24660; Turner Bequest CCLIX 95) is entirely the work of the studio, being based on pencil sketches in the Loire, Tours, Orleans and Paris, and composed on a sheet of paper from a batch watermarked 1828.
The copiousness of these loose sheet sketches reflects the increasingly active, spontaneous way in which Turner digested and expanded upon material gathered on his tours. As well as using sketches to inspire his major oil compositions for exhibition and sale, by this time he was also mining them for ideas for lucrative engraved productions which were often published in themed series. Thus it is likely that many of the loose sheets depicting the coast of Normandy, Brittany and the area around Calais were produced when the failed The English Channel or La Manche project was first mooted in early 1827.3 Others are clearly work in progress towards realised illustrations for The Keepsake annuals of the turn of the 1830s and, most numerously, discarded ideas made on the way to the final designs for the first volume of Turner’s Annual Tour: Wanderings by the Loire and Seine (1833–5; later reissued as Rivers of France).4
The varied media and wide range of subjects evident in these loose sheets has meant that they have not been previously catalogued as a set. For this reason they bear a mixture of Turner Bequest Roman numerals (assigned by A.J. Finberg in his 1909 Inventory)5 and a broken sequence of Tate collection numbers. The current grouping, based on dating and identifiable places visited on the 1826 tour, was devised by Turner specialist Ian Warrell for the 1997 Tate exhibition catalogue Turner and the Loire, which built in turn on the work of earlier scholars, especially Luke Hermann, Malcolm Cormack, and Nicholas Alfrey.6
The group is notable for some quite highly finished figure studies and interiors, depicting the appearance and daily life of the people of early nineteenth-century France (see, for example, Tate D24593, D24762, D40080 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 28, 197, 263b). However the great preponderance of works are depictions of the settlements, coastal regions and riverside terrain that Turner saw as he journeyed through Northern France: embarking at West Sussex, landing in Normandy, continuing through Brittany, and then back to the coast of the English Channel via Paris. Following the order of this itinerary, the following lists bring together the loose sheets depicting the sites that most caught Turner’s attention along the way:
West Sussex: D34556–D34559 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 173–6).
Dieppe: D20207–D20211 (Turner Bequest CCXX A–CCXX E); D25425 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 302).
Coutances: D20517 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 205); D34414–D34417 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 59–62); D20516 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 204); D34509 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 145).
Granville: D25212 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 90); D25356 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 234); D25357 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 235); D25387 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 264).
Mont Saint-Michel: D25342 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 220); D25379
(Turner Bequest CCLXIII 256); D34413 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 58); D40140.
Nantes: D20224 (Turner Bequest CCXX Q); D20518 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 206); D20519 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 207); D24573 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 8); D24575 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 10); D24579 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 14); D24581 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 16); D24644 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 79); D24756–D24758 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 191–3); D24765 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 200); D24768 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 203); D24769 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 204); D24800 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 235); D24801 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 236).
Angers: D20317 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 27); D20318 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 28); D20525 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 212); D20526 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 213); D24659 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 94); D24853 (Turner Bequest CCLX 17); D24918–D24920 (Turner Bequest CCLX 82–4); D25037–D25040 (Turner Bequest CCLXI 65–8).
Saumur: D24582 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 17); D24710 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 145); D24759
(Turner Bequest CCLIX 194); D24766 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 201); D24831 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 266).
Tours: D20256 (Turner Bequest CCXXI W); D24583 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 18); D24637 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 72); D24712 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 147); D24733 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 168); D25148 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 26); D34684 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 246); D34686 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 247).
Beaugency:D24660 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 95); D24661 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 96); D41493 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 96 v).
Orléans: D20225 (Turner Bequest CCXX R); D24636 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 71); D24764 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 199); D24770 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 205); D24771 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 206); D24825 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 260).
Paris: D24924 (Turner Bequest CCLX 88); D24926 (Turner Bequest CCLX 90); D24961 (Turner Bequest CCLX 125); D34439–D34441 (Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 82–4).
Saint-Cloud:D20479 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 173); D20482–D20484 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 176–177 v); D20487 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 179); D20490–D20493 (CCXXIV 181–4) ; D20496 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 187); D20497 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 188); D20530 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 217); D20537 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 224); D20540 (Turner Bequest CCXXIV 226) ; D25035 (Turner Bequest CCLXI 63); D25056 (Turner Bequest CCLXI 84); D25061 (Turner Bequest CCLXI 89); D25082 (Turner Bequest CCLXI 110); 25089 (Turner Bequest CCLXI 117).
Calais: D20218 (Turner Bequest CCXX K); D24857 (Turner Bequest CCLX 21); D24858 (Turner Bequest CCLX 22); D24870 (Turner Bequest CCLX 34); D24877–D24880 (Turner Bequest CCLX 41–44); D24882 (Turner Bequest CCLX 46); D24906 (Turner Bequest CCLX 70); D24907 (Turner Bequest CCLX 71); D24949 (Turner Bequest CCLX 113); D24968 (Turner Bequest CCLX 132); D24969 (Turner Bequest CCLX 133).
Ian Warrell, Turner on the Loire, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, pp.23, 24.
Ibid. p.24.
Ibid. pp.158–71.
Ibid. pp.184–97.
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909.
Warrell, London 1997; Luke Herrmann, J.M.W. Turner 1775–1851, London 1963Malcolm Cormack, J.M.W. Turner 1775–1851: A Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolours in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Cambridge 1975; Nicholas Alfrey, ‘Turner and the Loire’ in Maurice Guillaud, Nicholas Alfrey, Andrew Wilton and others, Turner en France: aquarelles, peintures, dessins, gravures, carnets de croquis / Turner in France: Watercolours, Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, Sketchbooks, exhibition catalogue, Centre Culturel du Marais, Paris 1981.

John Chu
March 2016

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How to cite

John Chu, ‘Loose Studies of Northern France c.1826–32’, subset, March 2016, 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/loose-studies-of-northern-france-r1185461, accessed 21 October 2021.