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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Rouen Sketchbook 1826

Turner Bequest CCLV
Sketchbook bound in buff paper covers
17 leaves of white wove paper
Approximate page size, 115 x 182 mm
Watermark ‘IVY MILL | 1816’
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This slim sketchbook contains a small number of pencil drawings of the harbour town of Dieppe but is mainly devoted to capturing distant views of Rouen in the hilly Normandy setting. There is also a single page with a study of the island settlement of Mont Saint-Michel although the link between this leaf and the rest of the sketchbook in its original state is questionable. For more details on this page, see the entry for folio 17 recto (D24106; Turner Bequest CCLV 17). The popularity in Britain of picturesque and antiquarian French subjects around the time Turner worked on this sketchbook probably provided an important stimulus for his interest is Rouen. It has been observed, for example, that in the present sketchbook Turner adopted almost identical vantage points over the medieval city as had John Sell Cotman and Richard Parks Bonington before him.1
Although the sketchbook has long been associated with Turner’s activities in France in the 1820s, the particular tour on which Turner made use of this sketchbook remains unclear. In his 1909 Inventory of the Turner Bequest, A.J. Finberg deduced that because the cathedral of Rouen is here depicted without its spire, which was destroyed by lightning in 1822 and reconstructed from 1827 onwards, the sketchbook must have been filled within that period.2 The present catalogue adopts the 1826 dating ventured by Tate curator Ian Warrell in 1997. In this version of events, Turner made these sketches on the first leg of an autumn tour of Northern France that commenced at Dieppe and Rouen, continued west through Normandy, and looped back to the English Channel via the Loire Valley and Paris. 3
Turner retuned to Rouen as a subject with particular intensity in the early 1830s and he may have made use of the material in sketchbook as part of his preparations for the illustrations to Turner’s Annual Tour: Wanderings by the Loire and Seine (1833-5; later reissued as Rivers of France). For the finished watercolours of Rouen in the Turner Bequest made at that time, see Tate D24772–D24674 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 107–109). For the resulting engravings, see Tate impressions T05604, T05605, T05607.
Ian Warrell, Turner on the Loire, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, p.29; Ian Warrell, Turner on the Seine, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, pp.188, 191.
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.II, p.776.
Warrell, London 1997, p.28.
The identifiable subjects in this sketchbook occur on the following folios:
Rouen: Folios 2 Recto to 4 Verso (D24079–D24084; Turner Bequest CCLV 2–4a); 6 Recto (D24086; Turner Bequest CCLV 6); 7 Verso to 8 Verso (D24088–D24090; Turner Bequest CCLV 7a–8a); 9 Verso to 11 Verso (D24092–D24096; Turner Bequest CCLV 9a–11a); 12 Verso to 14 Recto (D24098–D24101; Turner Bequest CCLV 12a–14); 15 Verso (D24104; Turner Bequest CCLV 15a); 16 Recto (D24105; Turner Bequest CCLV 16).
Dieppe: Folios 1 Recto (D24077; Turner Bequest CCLV 1); 1 Verso (D24078; Turner Bequest CCLV 1a).
Mont Saint-Michel: Folio 17 Recto (D24106; Turner Bequest CCLV 17).

John Chu
July 2015

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How to cite

John Chu, ‘Rouen Sketchbook 1826’, sketchbook, July 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/rouen-sketchbook-r1185368, accessed 24 January 2022.