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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

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In the late summer and autumn of 1832, Turner toured the coast, countryside, and urban settlements of northern France, focusing most of his attention on Paris and its satellites, and also on the picturesque banks of the River Seine as it meanders through Normandy. His immediate aim was to gather materials for two separate popular publication projects for which he had been commissioned to provide illustrations. The first of these, for the publisher Charles Heath, was a two-volume account of a leisurely cruise up the Seine from Le Havre to Troyes as part of the series entitled Turner’s Annual Tour: Wanderings by the Loire and Seine (1833–5; later reissued as Rivers of France). The second commission was from the Edinburgh publisher Robert Cadell, who required artwork for a new edition of Walter Scott’s Life of Napoleon Buonaparte (1834–36). Turner was well established with both Heath and Cadell at this stage. For Heath he had recently produced a series of Loire valley ...
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Guernsey Sketchbook ?1832
D23525–D23698; D41074–D41076
Turner Bequest CCLII 1–92
Seine and Paris Sketchbook 1832
D23886–D24076; D41070
Turner Bequest CCLIV 1–98a
Paris and Environs Sketchbook 1832
D24168–D24499; D40603; D40604; D40622; D40623
Turner Bequest CCLVII 1–169
Loose Sheets, Studies of Paris and the Seine c.1832–34
D20235, D20255, D20265, D24566–D24569, D24571, D24572, D24576, D24577, D24580, D24594, D24595, D24602–D24604, D24611, D24617, D24638, D24641–D24643, D24645–D24655, D24714, D24720, D24721, D24727, D24729, D24734, D24737–D24739, D24743, D24744, D24746, D24747, D24749, D24752, D24760, D24761, D24773, D24774, D24781, D24783, D24787, D24807, D24811, D24816, D24818–D24820, D24822, D25005, D25007, D25009, D25065, D25093–D25095, D29016, D40067, D40068, D40076, D40097, D40099, D40115, D40116, D40104
Turner Bequest CCXXI B, CCXXI V, CCXXII F, CCLIX 1–4, 6, 7, 11, 12, 15, 29, 30, 37–39, 46, 52, 73, 76–78, 80–90, 149, 155, 156, 162, 164, 169, 172–174, 178, 179, 181, 182, 184, 187, 195, 196, 208, 209, 216, 218, 222, 242, 246, 251, 253–255, 257, CCLXI 33, 35, 37, 93, 121–123, CCXCII 65
In the late summer and autumn of 1832, Turner toured the coast, countryside, and urban settlements of northern France, focusing most of his attention on Paris and its satellites, and also on the picturesque banks of the River Seine as it meanders through Normandy. His immediate aim was to gather materials for two separate popular publication projects for which he had been commissioned to provide illustrations. The first of these, for the publisher Charles Heath, was a two-volume account of a leisurely cruise up the Seine from Le Havre to Troyes as part of the series entitled Turner’s Annual Tour: Wanderings by the Loire and Seine (1833–5; later reissued as Rivers of France).1 The second commission was from the Edinburgh publisher Robert Cadell, who required artwork for a new edition of Walter Scott’s Life of Napoleon Buonaparte (1834–36).2
Turner was well established with both Heath and Cadell at this stage. For Heath he had recently produced a series of Loire valley compositions and, for Cadell, illustrations of Scott’s verse.3 Enough paperwork has survived from these men’s businesslike publishing houses to allow art historian Ian Warrell to deduce the dates of Turner’s absence from London on this tour.4 Thus we can be sure that Turner was on his travels by 17 August and back again around 23 October. It is also clear that Turner only received the Napoleon commission from Cadell once he had arrived in Paris, most likely in the first weeks of September.5
At least two sketchbooks in the Turner Bequest – Seine and Paris and Paris and Environs – are firmly attributed to this tour. As outlined in the Introduction to each of these sketchbooks, this connection has been made primarily because their contents are closely related to the subsequent published illustrations.6 Thus, Seine and Paris is overwhelmingly concerned with the riverside landscapes of Normandy which featured in the Annual Tour engravings. Paris and Environs, on the other hand, contains a significant amount of material associated with the Napoleon biography, including the sites of his education (Brienne-le-Ch√Ęteau), wedded life (Malmaison), pomp (Arc de Triomphe), and abdication (Fontainebleau). The Guernsey sketchbook has also been associated with this tour, although more tentatively for reasons laid out in its introductory essay. While the volume’s multiple studies of the lower Seine segue way smoothly into those in Seine and Paris, there is no definitive evidence to confirm that the multiple views of the Channel Islands were also taken on the 1832 tour.
Prompted by the discovery that the Napoleon commission was received only after Turner had left London for France, Warrell has speculated that the Paris sketches, some of which were made expressly for the Napoleon illustrations, were accomplished only after he had finished the Normandy sketches for the Annual Tour project.7 However, the artist was far from consistent in the order in which he filled his sketchbooks. It is ultimately unclear therefore, whether certain favoured sites – such as Caudebec-en-Caux or the Parisian quaysides – were sketched on just one occasion, on the return leg of the tour, or via more circuitous routes. Nor is it known whether or not Turner had been sketching in Paris prior to receiving the offer from Cadell, or for how long.
Also catalogued here as part of the 1832 tour are the colour studies of Seine landmarks which Turner made on loose sheets in the period after his return. As outlined in the Introduction to these sketches, they appear to have had an intermediary function in the fulfilment of the Annual Tour project. In some instances these freely painted gouaches and watercolours marked the culmination of a particular motif or compositional idea. In other instances they formed the basis for highly worked watercolour compositions which were then submitted for engraving and publication. These ‘finished’ works for the two Seine volumes of the Annual Tour are catalogued under their own sections.
1
Luke Herrmann, Turner Prints: The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 1990, pp.171–83; Ian Warrell, Turner on the Seine, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.46.
2
Herrmann, 1990, pp. 203–5; Warrell, 1999, p.47.
3
Warrell, 1999, p. 47.
4
Ibid., pp.47–8.
5
Ibid.
6
Gerald Finley, ‘Two Turner Studies’: ‘A “New Route” in 1822: Turner’s Colours and Optics’; ‘Turner’s Illustrations to Napoleon’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol.36, 1973, p.394.
7
Warrell, 1999, pp.48–60.

John Chu
January 2015

How to cite

John Chu, ‘Tour of Northern France 1832’, January 2015, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, April 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/tour-of-northern-france-r1175014, accessed 20 February 2019.