Rediscovering Kilnsey

Readers might have wondered at the recent inactivity of Sublimesites.co. Old friends will know such lapses are not infrequent. But I have not been idle. In fact I have been rummaging in a box of transparencies dating back to 1983, and encountering my former self.

The occasion of all this was a Turner watercolour that I came across on the splendid website of Andrew Clayton Payne. This appears under the title of ‘Bridge in a Mist’, but I recognised it as Kilnsey Crag and Conistone Bridge in Upper Wharfedale, Yorkshire.

Continue reading “Rediscovering Kilnsey”

England and Wales Revisited: #35 Holy Island, Northumberland

W. Tombleson after J.M.W.Turner R.A.
Holy Island, Northumberland, 1832
Etching and engraving, image 166 x 245, on plate 251 x 300, printed in black ink on india paper, 239 x 291, bonded to backing sheet of heavyweight white wove paper, not watermarked 399 x 562 mm
Proof before letters, as per Rawlinson’s first published state; one of the few subjects to have no inscription in its first published proof state. ‘JMWT’ monogram blind stamp (good impression) towards lower right edge of image. This mark was applied to every item sold from Turner’s studio in the sales at Christie’s of 1873 and 1874.
Proof impression and first published state of plate issued 1832 as plate 35 of ‘Picturesque Views in England and Wales’ Part 9, no.3.
Private Collection

This is the second instalment of a new series of articles in which I will revisit each of the 96 sites depicted by J.M.W.Turner in his series of engravings ‘Picturesque View in England and Wales’. These were published over a period of ten years between 1827 and 1837 but represent subjects drawn from his entire career. Overall the scope of the series is epic and sublime. It teems with imagery and detail, human comedy and drama, history, and the accumulated knowledge of every effect and experience that a lifetime of being in the world might witness. It is positively Miltonic in scope, breadth and power, and luminous in its sympathy for the human condition. It is also represents the very summit of the art of engraving and printing by hand, just at the point where the production of images was about to be overtaken by photography and industrial publication. The order in which I tackle the subjects will perforce be dictated by opportunity and circumstance. For the time being I will concentrate on Northumberland subjects. Here we consider Turner’s image of Holy Island, Northumberland, the most northerly subject of the England and Wales series.

Turner: Northern Exposure
Watercolour of Holy Island to left

The subject is one of those included in the current exhibition of Turner: Northern Exposure currently showing at the Granary Gallery, Berwick-upon-Tweed, until Sunday 13 October [see https://www.turnernorthernexposure.co.uk/%5D. This is a small, but exquisite display of subjects related to Turner’s first tour to the north of England in 1797. In it, we argue that this tour was the key formative event of his early career: His exposure to the scenery and weather of the north opened up to him the poetic power of the landscape sublime. From that time he returned to subjects sketched then at regular intervals throughout his career. The exhibition moves on to Carlisle in the autumn, and then to Harrogate in the spring of 2020, at each venue with a fresh focus on the area relevant to the venue. I hope to feature a few more subjects relating to each area as the exhibition develops.

Maps best viewed full size. Click on image to enlarge.

The present subject is the view of Lindisfarne church, abbey and castle as seen from the tiny St Cuthbert’s Isle off the south-west tip of the island. The island can only be accessed on foot at low tide, and only a relatively small proportion of visitors ever bother to make the crossing.

Lindisfarne Church, Priory, Coastguard Station and Castle from St Cuthbert’s Isle
Photograph taken by David Hill, 2 July 2019, 20.41 BST

Turner’s only sketches on Holy Island date from his tour of the north of England in 1797. At the age of twenty-two, he was principally interested in developing his reputation for architectural subjects, and so devoted the majority of his time to five excellently detailed sketches of the interior of Lindisfarne Priory. His sketch of the present subject, however precedes those and must record his first impression, immediately on arrival.

Holy Island, Northumberland, 1797
Pencil on paper, 210 x 270 mm
A page from the ‘North of England’ sketchbook, Tate, London, Turner Bequest, TB XXXIV 51, Tate D00959
To see this in Tate’s online catalogue of the Turner Bequest click here, and use you browser’s back button to return to this page
https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-holy-island-general-view-from-the-sea-d00959

It was the architectural subjects that Turner concentrated on for watercolours developed immediately after the visit, but when he thought about the island of Lindisfarne thirty years later for ‘Picturesque Views in England and Wales’, it was his arrival that he remembered.

J.M.W.Turner
Holy Island, Northumberland, 1829
Watercolour, 292 x 432 mm
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Image courtesy of V&A, to view in Museum’s own online catalogue click here.
http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1028632/holy-island-northumberland-watercolour-turner-joseph-mallord/

Holy Island is one of a considerable number of England and Wales subjects that Turner sketched on his first northern tour of 1797. It would appear that there remained for him deep, unfinished business with the observations made when his younger self first set out to seriously experience the wider world.

Turner’s engraved subjects are always worth examining closely for their figures. Turner’s sympathies were always drawn towards those whose lives exposed them most to the elements, and whose livings were dependent on their knowledge and understanding of nature. Here a small boat has pulled up in the surf to the right, and passengers are enjoying something of a foot-wetting on the shore whilst goods are offloaded.

Turner is presumably recalling his own mode of arrival as a young man in 1797, when he came to Lindisfarne from Bamburgh. The most direct route would have been to take a ferry boat. The coast would have been teeming with boatmen offering such services. In Turner in the North (Yale University Press, 1996) I wrote: ‘A ferry-boat has just landed in the teeth of a fierce squall, and passengers paddle to the shore, no doubt relieved. A gales has whipped up, and one of the boatmen has to hold on to the boat to prevent it drifting away. One cannot image much enthusiasm for the return crossing. More cautious boatmen have sheeted their boats on the beach.’

Most modern visitors give little thought to Lindisfarne’s maritime identity. The contemporary access is by car over the causeway to the north-western part of the island. The sands crossing was always a route for pilgrims on foot or carters leading horses, but it must be obvious that there is very little at either end of the causeway – nothing at all at the Lindisfarne side, which suggest that this route was always something of a detour. The castle guards the main boat landing; the village and abbey cluster at the most sheltered access to the sea, and the principal historical route of communication was always from the royal castle of Bamburgh to the south.

Bamburgh Castle from St Cuthbert’s Isle
Photograph taken by David Hill, 2 July 2019, 20.44 BST

Nowadays the visitor might be little aware of Lindisfarne’s essentially maritime character, unless one wonders why the settlement was founded at the south-west tip of the island. The contemporary frisson of excitement of a visit to Lindisfarne is the driving over the causeway. This is a relatively recent adventure for the motorist, since the tarmac roadway was built only in 1954. Before then the route was best left to tractors and horse-drawn carts. Pedestrian visitors can still enjoy the original experience by following the poles marking the pilgrim’s way. Bare legs or waders are recommended; it is a soft and silty expedition, and best done only under the leadership of a guide. Generally today, the excitement is all too frequently about incautious tourists who ignore tide warnings, and end up with their cars awash. A contemporary Turner might well find a subject in such hubris.

Revisiting the Holy Island of Turner’s England and Wales raises the issue of changing modes of access. And that, indeed, was one of the core themes for Turner. He remembers his own mode of approach in the foreground, but in the far distance introduces a detail specific to the date of the watercolour, a modern steamboat chugging along the horizon. Steam boats were unthought of in 1797. The first trials were made in the 1810s and regular North Sea coastal services were established in the early 1820s. The great advantage of steam was that ships could make progress almost no matter whatever was the state of the winds. This ship ploughs its way south into a southerly squall, decidedly poor conditions for a journey in a small open boat. The detail is a measure of how much things had changed in the thirty years between the sketch and the engraving, but also of how much [as represented by the foreground] remained the same. It is perhaps worth reminding ourselves than when the steamship Forfarshire famously ran onto the Farne rocks in 1838, it was in a rowing boat that Grace Darling set out to the rescue. Come to think of it, that might easily be the Forfarshire passing here!

Apart from that, it is striking how many of the figures here are children. One wonders whether they perhaps went to school on the mainland? The time of day is morning, with the sun slanting in from the east, so they might all be setting out. Certainly it looks as if the boatman is beckoning them aboard, and none of the putative passengers are at all enthusiastic to respond. Turner seems to be suggesting something of the educative character of his own journey of 1797, and that real knowledge of nature is only drawn from thorough immersion in it.

England and Wales Revisited: # 34 Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

J.T.Willmore after J.M.W.Turner R.A.
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, 1832
Etching and engraving, image 164 x 233, on plate 246 x 302, printed in black ink on india paper, 241 x 298, bonded to backing sheet of heavyweight white wove paper, not watermarked 399 x 562 mm
Inscribed in neat script centred below image, ‘Engrvd by J.T.Willmore from a Drawing by J.M.W.Turner R.A.’. ‘JMWT’ monogram blind stamp (good impression) towards lower right edge of image. This mark was applied to every item sold from Turner’s studio in the sales at Christie’s of 1873 and 1874.
Proof impression and first published state of plate issued 1832 as plate 34 of ‘Picturesque Views in England and Wales’ Part 9, no.2.
Private Collection

This is the first instalment of a new series of articles in which I will revisit each of the 96 sites depicted by J.M.W.Turner in his series of engravings ‘Picturesque View in England and Wales’. These were published over a period of ten years between 1827 and 1837 but represent subjects drawn from his entire career. Overall, the series is epic in scale and scope. It teems with imagery and detail, human comedy and drama, history, and the accumulated knowledge of every effect and experience that a lifetime of being in the world might witness. It is positively Miltonic in scope, breadth and power, and luminous in its sympathy for the human condition. It is also represents the very summit of the art of engraving and printing by hand, just at the point where the production of images was about to be overtaken by photography and industrial publication. The order in which I tackle the subjects will be directed by opportunity and circumstance. I begin at one of the most northerly subjects, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland.

The subject is one of those included in the exhibition Turner: Northern Exposure currently showing at the Granary Gallery, Berwick-upon-Tweed until Sunday 13 October [see https://www.turnernorthernexposure.co.uk/%5D. This is a small, but exquisite display of subjects related to Turner’s first tour to the north of England in 1797. Its argument is that this tour was the key formative event of his early career: His exposure to the scenery and weather of the north opened up to him the poetic power of the landscape sublime. He returned to subjects sketched then at regular intervals throughout his career. The exhibition moves on to Carlisle in the autumn, and then to Harrogate in the spring of 2020, each venue offering a fresh focus on its immediate area. I hope to feature a few more subjects relating to each area as the exhibition develops.

[click on image to enlarge]

Tuner’s subject at Alnwick is the castle seen over the Lion Bridge from the NNW. Alnwick is one of the finest palace castles in the north, the seat of the Percy family, Dukes of Northumberland. It was started not long after the Norman conquests, and has been remodelled by successive generations to the present day. The bridge was built in 1775 by John Adam as part of extensive work on the castle and estate. It is famous for the stone lion on its parapet, emblem of the Percy family.

Alnwick Castle, with the Lion Bridge 1797 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/D00951

Turner’s only sketches at Alnwick date from his visit in 1797. On that occasion he sketched three subjects, the gateway to Alnwick Abbey, the tower of St Michael’s Church, and the view of the castle across the bridge.

Alnwick Castle
Photograph taken by David Hill, 1993

The viewpoint of the exhibited work is perfectly preserved today, in a field just to the west of the bridge. There is no public right of way, but in any case I can say that the view today is rather occluded by the growth of trees. Turner’s original sketch was made from a position just below the level of the parapet. We can just see the cast lead lion on the far side with its distinctive horizontal tail.

Comparison quickly reveals that the castle differs considerably in its details today, particularly in respect of the main block of the keep called the Prudhoe Tower towards the right. Although this appears to be medieval, it was built between 1854 and 1857, and Turner’s sketch accurately records the appearance of the castle before its mid nineteenth century remodelling. My photograph was taken in the mid-1990s when there were fewer trees, or at least they were very much smaller than they are today. Even so. I had to retreat further from the bridge than Turner in order to bring the castle into clear view. Today that is still more necessary, but it is entertaining to be able to judge from the old photograph exactly how much individual specimens have flourished in the interval.

J.M.W.Turner
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, 1829
Watercolour on paper, 283 x 483 mm
Australia, Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia
Image courtesy of Google Art project:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:J.M.W._Turner_-_Alnwick_Castle_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Following the sketch of 1797, it was more than thirty years before Turner returned to the subject to develop a watercolour [Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide] engraved in 1829 and published in 1830 for his series of ‘Picturesque Views of England and Wales’. It is perhaps one of the most extraordinary conceptions of the whole series, for Turner imagined the scene by night, with the full moon rising over the castle.

J.T.Willmore after J.M.W.Turner R.A.
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, 1832
Etching and engraving, image 164 x 233, on plate 246 x 302, printed in black ink on india paper, 241 x 298, bonded to backing sheet of heavyweight white wove paper, not watermarked 399 x 562 mm
Inscribed in neat script centred below image, ‘Engrvd by J.T.Willmore from a Drawing by J.M.W.Turner R.A.’. ‘JMWT’ monogram blind stamp (good impression) towards lower right edge of image. This mark was applied to every item sold from Turner’s studio in the sales at Christie’s of 1873 and 1874.
Proof impression and first published state of plate issued 1832 as plate 34 of ‘Picturesque Views in England and Wales’ Part 9, no.2.
Private Collection

Call me slow on the uptake if you like, but it was only this Spring when writing the captions for the Berwick exhibits that it occurred to me to wonder about the accuracy of the effect. The moon is shown low in the south-south-east, which is only possible in midsummer. In 2018, the furthest south it rose was on 28 June when at 129 degrees. Here it is seen at 157 degrees, and at an elevation of little more than twenty degrees, which would be about right for midsummer. It’s more than a little surprising that no-one else seems ever to have enquired about how true Turner’s effect might be.

Never one to resist a potential wild goose chase, I found myself driving northward on  Monday 17 June, when the nearest full moon this year to the summer solstice was scheduled. After two of the wettest June weeks on record this seemed an enterprise fraught with improbability. Despite the fact that it was a pleasant evening with a clearing forecast, I could not quite dispel the doubts seeded by my son who observed that there is no hint of the moon in the sketch and that as an artist Turner could put his moon in his picture wherever he liked and putting it where he did  look more than a little artful.

Alnwick 17 June 2019, 21.52.
Photograph taken by David Hill

I took up position just before ten o’clock with the sun setting behind me and the whole scene brightly lit, except for what appeared ominously like a veil of cloud across the southern sky. No sign whatsoever of the forecast moonrise at 21.59. Half an hour later; still no sign, but a solitary bright star [actually, as I subsequently discover, the planet Jupiter] hanging encouragingly where I would like to see the moon.

Alnwick, 17 June 2019, 22.38
Photograph taken by David Hill

With dusk thickening rapidly a large white owl appeared over the meadow by the river. Shifting position a little to see whether the moon might spotted, suddenly a deer darted up out of the long grass and bounded up the hill into the trees.

And then, suddenly there it was, five to eleven and the moon just lifting into view from behind a distant bank of cloud.

Alnwick, 17 June 2019, 22.55
Photograph taken by David Hill

Another three-quarters of an hour, 23.36, it was in the perfect position; exactly where Turner put it in the picture.

Alnwick, 17 June 2019, 23.36
Photograph by David Hill

The only problem now was that it was pitch black on the ground. There are cattle in the field below the bridge; their pats so easy to avoid in daylight that I had completely failed to register that there were so many. In so short a distance. So fresh.

Alnwick after Turner, 17 June 2019, 23.36
Photograph by David Hill (final version)

So, what might this mean, if anything? After all, the reason no-one has ever enquired into the truth of the effect is most likely to stem from the fact that no-one ever thought it mattered. But standing there in the middle of the night, watching the moon move into perfect enactment of Turner’s representation felt very much like a demonstration that he hadn’t just made it up. One conclusion that could be immediately drawn is that Turner didn’t make his sketch by moonlight. Even by the light of a full moon, it is just too dark. So the sketch, as one always imagined, was made during the day.

Alnwick, 17 June 2019, 23.36
Photograph by David Hill

So how did he know about the moon? Well, presumably he saw it. It’s not at all difficult to imagine him looking out from his inn, seeing a full moon in the offing and wandering down to the bridge to look at the castle under those conditions. And from the bridge the moon sits EXACTLY where Turner puts it.

Alnwick Castle: Moon from bridge. 17 June 2019 23.44
Photograph by David Hill

And there are reflections in the water.

Alnwick Castle: Moonlit reflections, 17 June 2019, 23.46
Photograph by David Hill

And this is exactly what Turner devoted his whole existence to. He must have watched the moon climb into the sky on countless occasions, glint upon rivers, creeks and the sea, silver meadows, buildings and trees. No-one can ever have stored up more knowledge of such things. And that is exactly what this picture does. After an interval of thirty years it takes a memory and clarifies it with his entire stock of experience accumulated during that time.

But it matters still more that he didn’t just make this up, even from his vast experience. It matters very greatly that the image has an indexical relationship to a real phenomenon. It might index to any number of conceptions and imaginings great and even profound. But for it to index to the real is to establish a connection to something beyond conception, to the sublime, to the other, to the not imagined. What I admire in Turner most is the sense that he continually gives that he is reporting on something discovered. That there is something altogether else that what we might imagine, and that we might get some inkling of it if we listen or look attentively enough.

J.M.W.Turner: Ehrenbreitstein from Neuendorf

This article offers a new identification for a watercolour exhibited in the recent ‘Turner et la Couleur’ exhibition at the Hotel de Caumont, Aix en Provence 4 May – 18 September 2016 and afterwards in ‘J M W Turner: Adventures in Colour’ at Turner Contemporary, Margate, 8 October 2016 – 8 January 2017. Its title at the exhibition was ‘River Scene: Moonight (formerly called Rolandseck)’. It was lent from a private collection and it is possibly the first time (at least in my experience) that it has been exhibited.

J.M.W.Turner The Castle of Ehrenbreitstein looking up the Rhine from Neuendorf, with the church of St Peter in the foreground: Dawn, c.1840-1 Watercolour on white paper, 230 x 285 mm Private Collection. Exhibited Aix en Provence ‘Turner et la Couleur’ (no.105) and Turner Contemporary, Margate, ‘JMW Turner: Adventures in Colour’ as ‘River Scene: Moonlight’, the subject can here be reidentified. Image scanned from catalogue ‘Turner et la Couleur’, 2016, no.105, pending approval of the owner.
J.M.W.Turner
The Castle of Ehrenbreitstein looking up the Rhine from Neuendorf, with the church of St Peter in the foreground: Dawn, c.1840-1
Watercolour on white paper, 230 x 285 mm
Private Collection.
Exhibited Aix en Provence ‘Turner et la Couleur’ (no.105) and Turner Contemporary, Margate, ‘JMW Turner: Adventures in Colour’ as ‘River Scene: Moonlight’, the subject can here be reidentified.
Image scanned from catalogue ‘Turner et la Couleur’, 2016, no.105, pending approval of the owner.

The subject can here be identified as a view of The Castle of Ehrenbreitstein looking up the Rhine from Neuendorf, with the church of St Peter in the foreground. St Peter’s has been completely transformed since Turner’s time. The gothic-style hall that he saw was begun in 1723, but completely rebuilt on its north side in 1913, enlarging the floor area to three times the original size and adding a large neo-Baroque tower. Besides the redevelopment of the church, the riverbanks have been reclaimed and built upon, so that Turner’s exact viewpoint is now under houses. The wisdom of building on the waterline has been severely tested by floods over the years to the extent that major works took place on the shore recently to build flood defences.

Despite having lunch in a restaurant very close to the church on a cycle tour from Mainz to Bonn in 2006, I am disappointed to discover that I appear to have taken no photographs. All I can imagine that my companions diverted me from Turner duty with bonhomie, beers and fine German fare. Well perhaps in truth not so much of the bonhomie. Still, I would look forward to an opportunity to return one day. Luckily for our immediate purposes the construction company that built the flood defences have a very close comparison on their web report of the project.

Neuendorf, looking up the Rhine with St Peter’s Church in the foreground and Ehrenbreitstein Castle in the beyond. Turner’s church was comprehensively rebuilt in 1913, but the view of the castle is pretty much unchanged.  Photograph by courtesy of Björnsen Beratende Ingenieure of Koblenz. To see the image in the company’s website click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. The site is worth visiting for a full picture of the works undertaken. https://www.bjoernsen.de/index.php?id=hws_koblenz
Neuendorf, looking up the Rhine with St Peter’s Church in the foreground and Ehrenbreitstein Castle in the beyond. Turner’s church was comprehensively rebuilt in 1913, but the view of the castle is pretty much unchanged.
Photograph by courtesy of Björnsen Beratende Ingenieure of Koblenz. To see the image in the company’s website click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. The site is worth visiting for a full picture of the works undertaken.
https://www.bjoernsen.de/index.php?id=hws_koblenz

The photograph offers exactly the same profile of Ehrenbreitstein, though is taken from too low an angle for us to see more than a hint of the more distant profiles. In the watercolour, however, we can see beyond the church to the bridge of boats at Koblenz and the towers and spires of Koblenz’s churches to the right. Another photograph by Thomas Kovacs has been posted by the photographer to Panoramio. It is worth clicking on the link below (and then using your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this site) for apart from his being a rather beautiful picture, it shows the church of Neuendorf in telephoto relation to the spires and towers of Koblenz:
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/91522597?source=wapi&referrer=kh.google.com#

My identification of the watercolour is in fact more of a re-identification. In 1902 Sir Walter Armstrong produced the first comprehensive list of Turner’s watercolours including one, on p.252 given as “Ehrenbreitstein” 1835-40. [J P Heseltine, Esq.] 8 1/2 x 11. Church on low promontory of river, across which rises the Castle bluff. Late blue sketch on white paper’. This is otherwise unaccounted for today, but was listed by Andrew Wilton in his 1979 catalogue of the Turner’s watercolours as no.1320 ‘(?) Ehrenbreitstein c.1840. Watercolour 229 x 280 (sight). Prov: J P Heseltine; Sotheby 28 June 1944, bt Willoughby; Sir Thomas Barlow. Coll; untraced [not reproduced].’ According to Ian Warrell in the Aix en Provence catalogue (no.105) the watercolour had at some stage acquired the identification of Rolandseck, which is some way further down the Rhine, but this was discounted by Warrell in favour of the generic ‘River Scene: Moonlight’.

Given my avowed interest in Turner’s observations from nature, the effect and time of day is perhaps worth a little consideration. The view looks almost due south and although conditions are blue and bosky, the landscape is suffused with misty light. The church is lamp black in the foreground before the ultramarine bluff of Ehrenbreitstein. The castle is contre-jour against a distinct lightening of the sky from the distant left. The source catches the high cirrus brightly in mackerel flecks and bars, whilst warming the right hand side of the picture. Rather than moonlight (and regular readers will know that I am generally keen to prove a moonlight!) this seems to me much more the effect of dawn. The lamp black foreground splendidly transmitting the still chilled riverside, in the deep shade of the eastern bank of the river, before any of the coming light has yet touched it. In the right foreground already on river boatman is abroad, another lucky witness to the brilliance of the early hour.

Ehrenbreitstein and Coblenz (in Three Instalments) 1833 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/D29676
Ehrenbreitstein and Coblenz (in Three Instalments) 1833 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/D29676

There are some sketches in the Turner Bequest that record Ehrenbreitstein from a similar angle, but only one of the identified subjects comes at all close to the present subject. This is a three-part sketch of Ehrenbreitstein looking up the Rhine, with the castle in the top (left) register, the towers of Koblenz to the right in the second register, and the apse of St Peter’s church, Neuendorf closing the scene in the third (extreme right) register. The present watercolour revisits almost the exact viewpoint of the sketch, but belongs to a visit in the early 1840s, when Turner passed through Koblenz on several occasions, whilst journeying up or down the Rhine by steamboat on his way to Switzerland and the Alps during successive tours 1840-44.

Click on any image to open in slideshow, and to see captions:

Earlier articles on SublimeSites.co have considered his work at Heidelberg in this period, but the present subject seems to stand as a foil to a study of the Mosel Bridge, Koblenz, with Ehrenbreitstein beyond, Sunset (Tate CCCLXIV 286; D36139) which in turn formed the basis of a finished watercolour of 1842 at Cincinnati Art Museum. The latter was thought by many to be a copy of a lost Turner, and reproduced as such by Ian Warrell in ‘Through Switzerland with Turner’ (Tate, 1995, p.43). I was lucky to see the watercolour on a trip to Cincinnati in 2001, and was straight away convinced that it could only be by Turner. I was not the first to think so. Eric Shanes had left a note in the Museum files to that effect. I wrote a long note to Cincinnati making the case for its authenticity, and rather disappointingly never even received so much as an acknowledgement. So shortly afterwards I sent the material to Andrew Wilton and he included it in his exhibition ‘Turner, Licht und Farbe’, no.178, with a note accepting it as the original.

Images best viewed full-size. Click on image to enlarge:

Google Earth Aerial View of Neuendorf, Ehrenbreitstein and Koblenz, showing Turner’s viewpoints
Google Earth Aerial View of Neuendorf, Ehrenbreitstein and Koblenz, showing Turner’s viewpoints

Google Earth rendering of sunrise across the Rhine from Neuendorf, 5.45 am, 27 September, about the same time that Turner was there in 1840
Google Earth rendering of sunrise across the Rhine from Neuendorf, 5.45 am, 27 September, about the same time that Turner was there in 1840

To return to the present example, it seems plain that on his tours of the 1840s (and earlier, as I have contended elsewhere) Turner devoted himself to recording hundreds of extremely particular effects directly in watercolour. Quite what the occasion of the present subject could have been, however, requires a little speculation. Turner passed through Koblenz on most of his visits to the Alps in the 1840s, but stylistic features – particularly the handling of the sky – compare closely with the Mosel Bridge sketch and watercolour suggesting a date of date of 1840 or 1841.

Turner would have stayed in Koblenz and Neuendorf is no more than a decent walk away from the city centre, but it seems unlikely that even he would have got up before dawn to walk out here on the off chance that the effect might have been worth seeing. We know that Turner passed through Koblenz on his way home from Venice in late September 1840. In the present composition we are looking due south and on 27 September (for example) the sun first broaches the horizon slightly behind us to the left at 05.45 GMT, and in the watercolour it does appear as if the first rays are catching the boatman at the bottom right corner of the composition. So what might have been the precise circumstances of the watercolour? The steamboat for Cologne and all stops downstream on his way back to London would presumably have left Koblenz at first light, so here is Turner, just embarked, out on deck to witness the sun coming up as his boat slips away downstream. Under such circumstances he might easily have begun the watercolour direct from nature, and had the time, leisure and circumstances in which to carry it to a reasonable degree of elaboration as the journey unfolded.

tdb1434-detail-boatman

Update: Turner and Heidelberg – a newly identified source for the Tate painting

Since completing part #6 of the SublimeSites.co series on Turner and Heidelberg, I have discovered a potential literary source for the subject of the Tate oil painting.

J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842 Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate In what follows, I question the long-established identification of the painting as ‘Heidelberg’, (sometimes ‘Heidelberg in the Olden Time’) and propose an earlier date than the current consensus of 1844-5. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-n00518
J M W Turner
A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842
Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms)
Tate, London, N00518
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
In what follows, I question the long-established identification of the painting as ‘Heidelberg’, (sometimes ‘Heidelberg in the Olden Time’) and propose an earlier date than the current consensus of 1844-5.
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-n00518

 J M W Turner Ruined Castle, with Mountains, 1841?c Pencil with slight touches of watercolour on paper, 227 x 325 mm A page from the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook’, Tate D33664.Turner Bequest CCCXXXIX 11 Tate Britain, London Self-evidently related to the painting called ‘Heidelberg’. But of somewhere else altogether. Photo courtesy of Tate. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-ruined-castle-with-mountains-d33664
J M W Turner
Ruined Castle, with Mountains, 1841?c
Pencil with slight touches of watercolour on paper, 227 x 325 mm
A page from the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook’, Tate D33664.Turner Bequest CCCXXXIX 11
Tate Britain, London
Self-evidently related to the painting called ‘Heidelberg’. But of somewhere else altogether.
Photo courtesy of Tate. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-ruined-castle-with-mountains-d33664

In part #6, I suggested that the composition of the painting was based on a sketch in the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook in the Turner Bequest at the Tate (TB CCCXXXIX). I am still puzzling over what the subject of the sketches might be – there are several of the same castle(s) in that sketchbook – but I did notice that the sketchbook contains the draft of a passage of poetry that clearly contains the germ of the composition.

J M W Turner A draft composition of a passage of poetry, 1841? (detail #2) Pencil on paper, page size 227 x 325 mm A page from the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook’, Tate D40432.Turner Bequest CCCXXXIX 11 Tate Britain, London Photo courtesy of Tate. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-title-not-known-d40432
J M W Turner
A draft composition of a passage of poetry, 1841? (detail #2)
Pencil on paper, page size 227 x 325 mm
A page from the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook’, Tate D40432.Turner Bequest CCCXXXIX 11
Tate Britain, London
Photo courtesy of Tate. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-title-not-known-d40432

I have transcribed the passage and incorporated that into an updated version of Part #6.

[title not known] null by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Supported by the Pilkington Anglo-Japanese Cultural Foundation

Logo

https://www.google.co.uk/#q=pilkington+anglo-japanese+cultural+foundation

Turner and Scotland #1: Ben Arthur from near Ardgartan

Mist on Ben Arthur Photograph by David Hill taken 4 April 2016, 14.54 GMT
Mist on Ben Arthur
Photograph by David Hill taken 4 April 2016, 14.54 GMT

Not all my Turnering goes according to plan. This is an interim report on a new identification for a watercolour at the British Museum. Currently called ‘Mountain study, a view in north Wales (?)’ this can now be confirmed instead as a view of Ben Arthur from the entrance to Glen Croe above Ardgartan. On a recent trip up to the far north-west,  I took a small detour off the Loch Lomond route to photograph Turner’s view. Being in the mountain valleys on this occasion, however, was rather like being in a large bucket with a wet carpet for a lid. Not the best conditions for photography, perhaps, but apt; for looking at Turner’s sketches conditions were not dissimilar when he was there in 1801. He persevered enough to at least see something of the mountain, and of necessity, for it was the best part of a week’s journey to get there directly. For me it is about four hours.

J M W Turner Ben Arthur from the entrance to Glen Croe above Ardgartan, 1801 Watercolour, 247 x 418 mm British Museum, London, R.W.Lloyd Bequest, 1958-7-12-405 as ‘Mountain Study: a view in North Wales?’ Image courtesy of The British Museum. To see the image in the British Museum’s own online catalogue, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=748939&partId=1&searchText=turner+welsh+mountain&page=1
J M W Turner
Ben Arthur from the entrance to Glen Croe above Ardgartan, 1801
Watercolour, 247 x 418 mm
British Museum, London, R.W.Lloyd Bequest, 1958-7-12-405 as ‘Mountain Study: a view in North Wales?’
Image courtesy of The British Museum. To see the image in the British Museum’s own online catalogue, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page:
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=748939&partId=1&searchText=turner+welsh+mountain&page=1

Ben Arthur from the entrance to Glen Croe above Ardgartan Photograph by David Hill taken 4 April 2016, 15.15 GMT The lower shoulder of the mountain is all that can be seen. Conditions were wet when Turner visited the site in 1801, He may have had to persevere for some time in order to get a glimpse of the summit. I will just have to go back in more promising conditions.
Ben Arthur from the entrance to Glen Croe above Ardgartan
Photograph by David Hill taken 4 April 2016, 15.15 GMT
The lower shoulder of the mountain is all that can be seen. Conditions were wet when Turner visited the site in 1801, He may have had to persevere for some time in order to get a glimpse of the summit. I will just have to go back in more promising conditions.

Google Earth Street View image of Ben Arthur from above Ardgartan Google Earth’s photograph is a very wide angle of view that visually diminishes the mountain. In fact the rocky summit seems very much more imposing, and the bulk of the mountain very much greater.
Google Earth Street View image of Ben Arthur from above Ardgartan
Google Earth’s photograph is a very wide angle of view that visually diminishes the mountain. In fact the rocky summit seems very much more imposing, and the bulk of the mountain very much greater.

J M W Turner Ben Arthur from the entrance to Glen Croe above Ardgartan, 1801 Pencil and sepia washes on paper, 149 x 218 mm (page size, 149 x 109 mm) from the ‘Tummel Bridge’ sketchbook, Tate, London, D03292-93, Turner Bequest TB LVII 8a-9 as ‘Looking up Glenkinglas from Cairndow’. Image courtesy of Tate. To see the image in the Tate’s own online catalogue, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/sketchbook/tummel-bridge-sketchbook-65708/19
J M W Turner
Ben Arthur from the entrance to Glen Croe above Ardgartan, 1801
Pencil and sepia washes on paper, 149 x 218 mm (page size, 149 x 109 mm) from the ‘Tummel Bridge’ sketchbook, Tate, London, D03292-93, Turner Bequest TB LVII 8a-9 as ‘Looking up Glenkinglas from Cairndow’.
Image courtesy of Tate. To see the image in the Tate’s own online catalogue, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page:
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/sketchbook/tummel-bridge-sketchbook-65708/19

The British Museum watercolour has long been thought to record a scene in North Wales and before that the Langdale Pikes in the Lake District. Kim Sloan gives a resume of the various suggestions in her catalogue of J.M.W.Turner Watercolours from the R.W.Lloyd Bequest published by the British Museum in 1998 (no.8). I noticed at the time when thinking about reviewing the book that the watercolour was based on a sketch of 1801 in the Tummel Bridge sketchbook in the Turner Bequest at the Tate (TB LVII 8a-9). This certainly made it a Scottish subject, and the mountain profile reminded me of the distinctive shape of Ben Arthur, but it was only when thinking about the subject again in 2013 and being able now to draw upon the amazing facility of Google Earth Street View, that I was able to pin down the exact viewpoint. This is a just a few hundred yards above Ardgartan, not far after the Inverary road turns away from Loch Long into Glen Croe, where a little side road on the left drops down to an old bridge across the Croe Water. The bridge can be clearly seen in both sketch and watercolour, and its successor survives, but there are far more trees in the valley than in Turner’s day, and it cannot be included in any clear view of the valley today. In my photograph it is hidden behind the public conveniences to the left.

Click on maps below to view full-size

Google Earth Aerial View of Loch Long and Ardgartan. Showing Turner’s viewpoint and principal landmarks
Google Earth Aerial View of Loch Long and Ardgartan.
Showing Turner’s viewpoint and principal landmarks

Google Earth Aerial View of Loch Long and Ardgartan. Detail of Turner’s viewpoint and nearby parking.
Google Earth Aerial View of Loch Long and Ardgartan.
Detail of Turner’s viewpoint and nearby parking.

There is scope here only for some immediate contextualisation, though Turner’s tour of 1801 in its own right would undoubtedly merit a full-length book.

The sketch comes near the beginning of the itinerary recorded in the Tummel Bridge sketchbook. The existing identifications of individual sketches would yield to sustained re-examination I suspect, but the sequence of drawings begins at the southern end of Loch Lomond, follows the west shore as far as Tarbet, then crosses to Arrochar, round the head of Loch Long, and along the old military road from Ardgartan past Ben Arthur through Clen Croe and Glen Kinglas to Loch Fyne and Inverary, proceeding onwards north to Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe, Tyndrum, Loch Tay and Tummel Bridge before turning back south at Blair Atholl.

In the Autumn 2013 issue of Turner Society News (Vol.120, pp.4-7) Murdo Macdonald and Eric Shanes published an article in which they re-identified another supposedly Welsh subject as Scottish. The picture in this case was an oil painting at the Fitzwilliam Museum called ‘Welsh Mountain Landscape’ which they demonstrated is in fact a view of the promontory of Rubha Mor on Loch Lomond, with Ben Lomond across the loch to the right. The identification stemmed from a re-identification of a related pencil drawing of the same subject. Their article has further significance in that they identify the oil as that exhibited by Turner at the Royal Academy in 1802 under the title of ‘Ben Lomond Mountains, Scotland: The Traveller – Vide Ossian’s War of Caros’.

The Loch Lomond subject, however has direct relevance to our immediate topic, for we may add to Macdonald and Shanes’s material the observation that the pencil drawing that they reproduce (one of a series of generally quite highly finished studio pencil drawings called the ‘Scottish Pencils’) has, like our Ardgartan subject, its antecedent in a pencil sketch in the Tummel Bridge sketchbook. A drawing just a few pages before that of Ardgartan records Turner’s first-hand observation of the view of Rubha More and Ben Lomond, which he then developed into the ‘Scottish Pencils’ drawing. So we may be sure that Turner began the Tummel Bridge sketchbook at the southern end of Loch Lomond, and then proceeded on the west shore road via Luss and Rubha Mor before reaching Tarbet and then crossing to Loch Long and Arrochar.

J.M.W.Turner  Ben Lomond Mountains, Scotland: The Traveller – Vide Ossian’s War of Caros. Exhibited Royal Academy, 1802 Oil on canvas 641 x 988 mm The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge Image courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. To see the image in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s own online catalogue, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page: http://webapps.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/explorer/index.php?oid=3996
J.M.W.Turner
Ben Lomond Mountains, Scotland: The Traveller – Vide Ossian’s War of Caros. Exhibited Royal Academy, 1802
Oil on canvas 641 x 988 mm
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Image courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. To see the image in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s own online catalogue, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page:
http://webapps.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/explorer/index.php?oid=3996

J M W Turner Rubha Mor on Loch Lomond, with Ben Lomond in the distance, 1801 Chalk, Pencil and watercolour on paper, 297 x 429 mm. Tate, London, D03426., Turner Bequest TB LVIII 47 as ‘A Wooded Bay with Mountains Beyond, Perhaps Loch Lomond at Inveruglas’ Image courtesy of Tate. To see the image in the Tate’s own online catalogue, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-a-wooded-bay-with-mountains-beyond-perhaps-loch-lomond-at-inveruglas-d03426
J M W Turner
Rubha Mor on Loch Lomond, with Ben Lomond in the distance, 1801
Chalk, Pencil and watercolour on paper, 297 x 429 mm.
Tate, London, D03426., Turner Bequest TB LVIII 47 as ‘A Wooded Bay with Mountains Beyond, Perhaps Loch Lomond at Inveruglas’
Image courtesy of Tate. To see the image in the Tate’s own online catalogue, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page:
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-a-wooded-bay-with-mountains-beyond-perhaps-loch-lomond-at-inveruglas-d03426

J M W Turner Rubha Mor on Loch Lomond, with Ben Lomond in the distance, 1801 Pencil and sepia washes on paper, 149 x 218 mm (page size, 149 x 109 mm) from the ‘Tummel Bridge’ sketchbook, Tate, London, D03284-85, Turner Bequest TB LVII 4a-5 as ‘A Small Boat Drawn Up in a Wooded Bay, with Mountains Beyond: ?Loch Lomond at Inveruglas’. Image courtesy of Tate. To see the image in the Tate’s own online catalogue, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/sketchbook/tummel-bridge-sketchbook-65708
J M W Turner
Rubha Mor on Loch Lomond, with Ben Lomond in the distance, 1801
Pencil and sepia washes on paper, 149 x 218 mm (page size, 149 x 109 mm) from the ‘Tummel Bridge’ sketchbook, Tate, London, D03284-85, Turner Bequest TB LVII 4a-5 as ‘A Small Boat Drawn Up in a Wooded Bay, with Mountains Beyond: ?Loch Lomond at Inveruglas’.
Image courtesy of Tate. To see the image in the Tate’s own online catalogue, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page:
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/sketchbook/tummel-bridge-sketchbook-65708

So the two subjects are recorded in closely sequential sketches in the Tummel Bridge sketchbook, and are only a few miles apart and must have been sketched on the same or successive days. We can pinpoint Turner’s visit to Loch Lomond and Ardgartan quite precisely, for a note in another sketchbook used on the 1801 tour (Scotch Lakes sketchbook, TB LVI, inside end cover) records that he left Edinburgh on 18 July for a tour of the Highlands, and arrived at Gretna on his way south on 5 August. His route took him from Edinburgh directly via Linlithgow, Glasgow and Dumbarton to Loch Lomond. If we allow three or four days for that part of the journey he would have been at Loch Lomond and Ardgartan about the 21st or 22nd of July.

The 1980s were something of a golden age for topographical work on Turner. In 1982 Aberdeen Art Gallery organised an exhibition of Turner in Scotland. Today it might be possible to make two or three wonderful books out of the topic, but the catalogue published at the time contains some great work. One chapter that I am particularly fond of is by Tom Wigley and Nigel Huckstep of the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, in which they give ‘An account of weather conditions during Turner’s tour of Scotland in July-August 1801’. They paint a remarkably detailed day-to day picture. Conditions were generally cold and cloudy: ‘On 19-22 July a new low moved into the area, bringing a little relief from the cool weather [northerlies] and some reduction in cloud. Cloudy cool conditions returned as this low moved across to southern Scandinavia’. Afterwards there were a few brighter intervals, but generally the cool and cloudy conditions prevailed.

And that is exactly what we see in the sketches that Turner made at the time, and in the pictures that he developed from those observations.

CLICK ON ANY IMAGE BELOW TO OPEN FULL SIZE AND SEE CAPTIONS

The interested reader can follow Turner’s sequence of sketches in the Tummel Bridge sketchbook on the Tate’s own website by clicking on the following link:
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/sketchbook/tummel-bridge-sketchbook-65708.
It seems clear from my own brief engagement with the material here, that there is a huge reservoir of potential interest in the sketches at this close level of focus. It is a little surprising that the Tate’s revision of its catalogue of Turner’s sketches has not yet given the tour of 1801 any sustained consideration. It seems plain from the initial grounds for this essay, i.e.that the British Museum watercolour has been misidentified as a North Wales subject, that Turner’s tour of Scotland in that year has been overshadowed by his earlier work in Wales, and (mea culpa) by his first visit to the Alps in the following year. I hope to return to the topic sometime soon once I can find the time to visit Loch Lomond. It’s perhaps a faint hope that the opportunity will materialise for me to give the tour the full treatment that it deserves, but perhaps someone will be able to do it full justice one day.

A Mountain Ridge with Trees in the Foreground 1801 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Cotman and Turner’s ‘Van Tromp’: A newly identified study of 1832

On 10 May 2015, I posted a short article identifying one of the Cotman sketches at Leeds Art Gallery as a memorandum of a painting by Turner, ‘Helvoetsluis’, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1832. It was touching to discover some new documentation of Cotman’s admiration for Turner. Then, just recently, a group of seven pencil sketches in an old mount popped up at a sale in Auckland, New Zealand with an attribution to Cotman. The drawings were small and slight, and the subjects unidentified and the lot seemed at first sight an altogether marginal item.

International Art Centre, 272 Parnell Road, Auckland, New Zealand, Collectable Art, 23 February, 2016, lot 147: John Sell Cotman 1782 - 1842 - Seven drawings - Coastal Scenes, Pencil on paper 3.0 x 9.0, Signed & dated (date illegible), repr, est. $NZ 500 - 1,000, sold for NZ$700; Image courtesy of International Art Centre To see the picture and cataloguing in the IAC’s own website, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this site. http://www.internationalartcentre.co.nz/auctions/auctionDetail.lsd?a=201602&p=147
International Art Centre, 272 Parnell Road, Auckland, New Zealand, Collectable Art, 23 February, 2016, lot 147: John Sell Cotman 1782 – 1842 – Seven drawings – Coastal Scenes, Pencil on paper 3.0 x 9.0, Signed & dated (date illegible), repr, est. $NZ 500 – 1,000, sold for NZ$700;
Image courtesy of International Art Centre To see the picture and cataloguing in the IAC’s own website, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this site.
http://www.internationalartcentre.co.nz/auctions/auctionDetail.lsd?a=201602&p=147

What caught my attention was the fact that one of them reminded me of the Leeds sketch. It turns out that it is not only a study of another oil painting by Turner, but also, rather remarkably, of a painting from the same 1832 exhibition. The other sketches in the mount may wait in time for connections to be made, but that of the Turner painting is worth reporting now, since it offers some evidence of significance to Turner chronology besides that of Cotman.

Memorandum of Turner's painting 'Van Tromp's Shallop, at the Entrance of the Scheldt' exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1832 Graphite on paper, 95 x 133 mm Inscribed: By Cotman in graphite in lower margin: 'S.H.' and '206' Provenance: The Hannan collection (see notes) to the International Art Centre, 272 Parnell Road, Auckland, New Zealand, Collectable Art, 23 February, 2016, lot 147: John Sell Cotman 1782 - 1842 - Seven drawings - Coastal Scenes, Pencil on paper 3.0 x 9.0, Signed & dated (date illegible), repr, est. $NZ 500 - 1,000, sold for NZ$700; Photograph by David Hill
Memorandum of Turner’s painting ‘Van Tromp’s Shallop, at the Entrance of the Scheldt’ exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1832
Graphite on paper, 95 x 133 mm
Inscribed: By Cotman in graphite in lower margin: ‘S.H.’ and ‘206’
Provenance: The Hannan collection (see notes) to the International Art Centre, 272 Parnell Road, Auckland, New Zealand, Collectable Art, 23 February, 2016, lot 147: John Sell Cotman 1782 – 1842 – Seven drawings – Coastal Scenes, Pencil on paper 3.0 x 9.0, Signed & dated (date illegible), repr, est. $NZ 500 – 1,000, sold for NZ$700;
Photograph by David Hill

This is a small, careful pencil sketch of a large, single-masted, gaff-rigged barge with a poop deck, seen from the starboard stern sailing away on a starboard tack towards a large man of war on the right horizon seen from the starboard beam, laid up into the wind. There are numerous other vessels, large and small in the distance to the left. The drawing has been surrounded by a freehand framing line and inscribed ‘S H’ in the centre of the lower margin and ‘206’ towards the right.

J M W Turner Van Tromp's Shallop, at the Entrance of the Scheldt, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1832, no.206 Oil on canvas, 90.5 x 120.6 cm Tate Britain, London, N00537, Turner Bequest, 1856 as ‘Van Tromp Returning after the Battle off the Dogger Bank’, exhibited 1833. Turner exhibited several ‘Van Tromp’ subjects, and there has been some confusion as to which is which. Cotman’s sketch confirms for the first time that the painting at the Tate can be identified with the 1832 exhibit. Image courtesy of TATE. To see the picture and cataloguing in Tate’s own website, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this site. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-van-tromp-returning-after-the-battle-off-the-dogger-bank-n00537
J M W Turner
Van Tromp’s Shallop, at the Entrance of the Scheldt, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1832, no.206
Oil on canvas, 90.5 x 120.6 cm
Tate Britain, London, N00537, Turner Bequest, 1856 as ‘Van Tromp Returning after the Battle off the Dogger Bank’, exhibited 1833.
Turner exhibited several ‘Van Tromp’ subjects, and there has been some confusion as to which is which. Cotman’s sketch confirms for the first time that the painting at the Tate can be identified with the 1832 exhibit.
Image courtesy of TATE. To see the picture and cataloguing in Tate’s own website, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this site.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-van-tromp-returning-after-the-battle-off-the-dogger-bank-n00537

The painting in question can be identified as J M W Turner’s Van Tromp’s Shallop, at the Entrance of the Scheldt exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1832 as no.206. The inscriptions stand for ‘Somerset House’, the home of the Royal Academy until 1836, and the exhibition number.

The painting is at the Tate, but is currently identified with another exhibited title, that of Van Tromp Returning after the Battle off the Dogger Bank, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1833. Turner exhibited three Van Tromp subjects in consecutive years 1831-33, and as Butlin and Joll note in their catalogue of Turner’s oil paintings (The Paintings of J M W Turner, 2 vols, Yale University Press, 2nd ed, 1984, under nos.344 and 351), the task of identifying the surviving pictures with the exhibited titles has proved difficult.

J M W Turner Van Tromp Returning after the Battle off the Dogger Bank’, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1833 Oil on canvas, 88.9 x 119.4 cm Wadsworth Athenaeum, Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, 1951.233, as ‘Van Tromp's Shallop, at the Entrance of the Scheldt, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1832 (The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, Endowed by Mr. and Mrs. William Lidgerwood). Turner exhibited several ‘Van Tromp’ subjects, and there has been some confusion as to which is which. In the light of the identification of Cotman’s sketch, this can now be identified as the 1833 exhibit. Image courtesy of Wadsworth Athenaeum. To see the picture and cataloguing on the Wadsworth Athenaeum’s own website, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this site. http://argus.wadsworthatheneum.org/Wadsworth_Atheneum_ArgusNet/Portal/public.aspx?lang=en-US
J M W Turner
Van Tromp Returning after the Battle off the Dogger Bank’, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1833
Oil on canvas, 88.9 x 119.4 cm
Wadsworth Athenaeum, Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, USA, 1951.233, as ‘Van Tromp’s Shallop, at the Entrance of the Scheldt, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1832 (The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, Endowed by Mr. and Mrs. William Lidgerwood).
Turner exhibited several ‘Van Tromp’ subjects, and there has been some confusion as to which is which. In the light of the identification of Cotman’s sketch, this can now be identified as the 1833 exhibit.
Image courtesy of Wadsworth Athenaeum. To see the picture and cataloguing on the Wadsworth Athenaeum’s own website, click on the following link, and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this site.
http://argus.wadsworthatheneum.org/Wadsworth_Atheneum_ArgusNet/Portal/public.aspx?lang=en-US

Butlin and Joll (under no.344) identify the 1832 title with a painting at the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut, but qualify that by saying: ‘there is no conclusive evidence to show whether the Hartford picture and the Tate picture ‘Van Tromp returning after the battle of Battle off the Dogger Bank (no.351) are correctly identified as their titles might be considered interchangeable. However, as the Hartford title has been attached to it since at least 1889, there seems no reason not to assign Van Tromp returning after the Battle off the Dogger Bank to the Tate Gallery.. In the absence of any conflicting evidence.’ The emergence of this sketch, however, settles the equation of the Tate picture with the 1832 title, and by implication re-identifies the Hartford picture as the 1833 exhibit.

J M W Turner Van Tromp Returning after the Battle off the Dogger Bank’, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1833 – detail of figure standing in foreground boat) Oil on canvas, 88.9 x 119.4 cm Wadsworth Athenaeum, Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
J M W Turner
Van Tromp Returning after the Battle off the Dogger Bank’, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1833 – detail of figure standing in foreground boat)
Oil on canvas, 88.9 x 119.4 cm
Wadsworth Athenaeum, Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, USA

There already was some fairly clear evidence for the latter, perhaps given sufficient weight by commentators. Butlin and Joll under their entry for the 1833 exhibit (no.351) quote a review of that painting from the Morning Chronicle, which remarks on a detail of ‘Liston standing up in a boat is very funny’, a reference to the comic actor John Liston 1776-1846. The Tate picture contains nothing that could have occasioned such an observation but the Hartford picture does indeed have a prominent figure standing in the nearest boat in that composition.

John Sell Cotman Study after JMW Turner's painting 'Helvoetsluys : the City of Utrecht, 64, going to Sea', exh RA 1832 no.284. Called 'Shipping Off Yarmouth', 1832 Graphite on thin, off-white [Kitson 1926 says grey] wove paper, somewhat darkened and glue-stained in the corners, 93 x 142 mm, 3 5/8 x 5 5/8 ins, holed towards the upper and lower left, where previously glued down. Inscribed 'S H', lower edge centre and '284' lower right. Leeds Art Gallery , LEEAG.1949.0009.0067 Photograph courtesy of Leeds Art Galleries Click on image to enlarge
John Sell Cotman
Study after JMW Turner’s painting ‘Helvoetsluys : the City of Utrecht, 64, going to Sea’, exh RA 1832 no.284. Called ‘Shipping Off Yarmouth’, 1832
Graphite on thin, off-white [Kitson 1926 says grey] wove paper, somewhat darkened and glue-stained in the corners, 93 x 142 mm, 3 5/8 x 5 5/8 ins, holed towards the upper and lower left, where previously glued down.
Inscribed ‘S H’, lower edge centre and ‘284’ lower right.
Leeds Art Gallery , LEEAG.1949.0009.0067
Photograph courtesy of Leeds Art Galleries
Click on image to enlarge
The Leeds collection contains a memorandum (LEEAG.1949.0009.0067) of a second painting by Turner in the same exhibition; ‘Helvoetsluys : the City of Utrecht, 64, going to Sea’, exh RA 1832 no.284 (Fuji Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan). This is likewise inscribed with the legend ‘SH’ for Somerset House and the exhibition number (see SublimeSites.co, 10 May 2015 for full discussion).

Click on either image below to enlarge, and to shuttle between. Click on ‘x’ to close and return to main page.

Comparison of the present sketch with Turner’s painting is interesting. Cotman gives the boats very much more space in the composition, settles the boats rather more into the water, and rather diminishes the force of the gale, In Turner Tromp’s barge in the foreground is almost capsized in a gust that looks rather stronger than the prevailing conditions. In Cotman the barge is more upright, but everything seems tighter to the wind, and although conditions are decidedly fresh, they are not threateningly so.
Butlin and Joll also remark that ‘Classification is not made easier by the absence in either picture of any vessel which can be positively identified as a shallop’. Although it is perhaps not the most obvious term for the boat recorded here, this could by C17 and C18 terminology certainly be described as a shallop. French shallops from ‘Chaloupe’ were gaff-sailed barges such as this, though only those in service as prestige yachts would have had an elaborate stern and poop deck accommodation such as this.

The online catalogue of the International Art Centre sale gave the following details of the provenance:

‘THE HANAN COLLECTION LOTS 134 – 148
A friendship conducted through correspondence existed between Dunedin lawyer, Mark Hanan and the Anglo-Welsh artist Sir Frank Brangwyn RA.. Well aware of the austerity imposed by rationing in post war England, Hanan would regularly send parcels of New Zealand products such as woollen clothing and cheeses to his artist friend. In turn, Brangwyn sent Hanan paintings by both himself and other artists whom he admired and collected. This exchange continued until the artist’s death in 1956. The largest collection of Sir Frank Brangwyn paintings in New Zealand is permanently held by the Hanan family. In 2012 the collection was loaned to the Dunedin Art Gallery for a grand retrospective exhibition. A small selection of works from the collection are now offered for sale.’

When, where and in what form Brangwyn acquired the Cotman drawings remains to be established. He would certainly have known the Leeds architect Sydney Kitson through his work in Leeds, principally Brangwyn’s major work, the mosaics in the church of St Aidan, Roundhay Road, but also through acquisitions of Brangwyn’s work by Leeds Art Gallery. Brangwyn would certainly have known of Kitson’s work on Cotman culminating in the publication of Kitson’s monumental Life of John Sell Cotman in 1937, and of the large collection of sketches that Kitson had formed and left to Leeds on his death in that year. Some conversation between Kitson and Brangwyn seems highly likely, and I will look out for any indications of a connection as we work further through the cataloguing of the Leeds Cotman collection.

The full story of this will emerge in the cataloguing of the Leeds sketches, but the present occasion does provide the opportunity to hint at some of the storylines that are beginning to unfold. Despite the artistic investment that Cotman made ships and boats, the ambitions that he harboured for these sketches actually came to very little. There are some superb watercolours and oil paintings, but nothing like the substantial, reputation-establishing body of work that he no doubt imagined he might produce. Yet here, working his way through the Grand Rooms of Somerset House in 1832, he might well have reflected that he had himself exhibited works of ambition there thirty years or so earlier, when Turner was still in his twenties.

Throughout the interval Turner had annually lit up those walls with masterpieces. Now, in admiring these seascapes instinct with experience of being on the sea Cotman could not help feeling, and indeed demonstrating in his own memoranda, that he was the equal of all this. In terms of professional achievement Turner was everything he was not, but he was also one of the few living artists that Cotman truly measured himself against- the keeper of the standards that he himself aimed for, and the reminder of how fine was his own strength. Cotman found himself in various dark places during the 1830s, but Turner was a constant reference by which to remind himself of his own possible course.

Cotman Van Tromp detail

In Turner’s Footsteps at Heidelberg: Part 6

REVISED 14 April 2016 (DH) towards end, to discuss recently discovered poetic source

This post concludes the essay begun on 19 October 2015 and continued on 18, 20 and 23 November 2015 and 17 January 2016. In part #1, I followed in the footsteps of Turner’s comprehensive exploration of Heidelberg in 1833. In part #2, I looked at a major finished watercolour that he developed in the early 1840s, and a return visit to Heidelberg at the same time. In part #3 I looked at the deepening sublimity of his treatment of the site in three colour studies and a second major watercolour of c.1842. In part #4 I followed in the footsteps of Turner’s last visit to Heidelberg in 1844 when he made some new pencil sketches and a wonderful series of colour studies. In part #5 I considered a watercolour at the National Gallery of Scotland on the occasion of its annual exhibition in January. Here, I finally get round to considering the starting point of all this, a late oil painting at the Tate called ‘Heidelberg’. Concluding this may be, but conclusive, it is not. My motive for procrastinating through five previous episodes will become clear. In the perspective of his sketches, Turner’s previous treatments and his accumulated knowledge, its identification as Heidelberg emerges as problematic, but the resolution of those problems even more so.

J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842 Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate In what follows, I question the long-established identification of the painting as ‘Heidelberg’, (sometimes ‘Heidelberg in the Olden Time’) and propose an earlier date than the current consensus of 1844-5. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-n00518
J M W Turner
A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842
Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms)
Tate, London, N00518
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
In what follows, I question the long-established identification of the painting as ‘Heidelberg’, (sometimes ‘Heidelberg in the Olden Time’) and propose an earlier date than the current consensus of 1844-5.
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-n00518

J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842 Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate As displayed, 3 September 2015
J M W Turner
A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842
Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms)
Tate, London, N00518
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
As displayed, 3 September 2015

The identification has been established since at least 1856 when it was listed as no.255 ‘Heidelburg’ in the schedule of the Turner Bequest. Shortly afterwards it was engraved by Thomas Abel Prior and published in The Turner Gallery (1859-61) under the title of ‘Heidelberg’.

Thomas Abel Prior after J M W Turner Heidelberg Steel engraving, image size, 174 x 262 mm Published 1859-61 as one of a series of sixty posthumous engravings called ‘The Turner Gallery’. The plate is titled ‘Heidelberg’, but the accompanying description calls it ‘Heidelberg in the Olden Time’. All the early commentators found the topography problematic.
Thomas Abel Prior after J M W Turner
Heidelberg
Steel engraving, image size, 174 x 262 mm
Published 1859-61 as one of a series of sixty posthumous engravings called ‘The Turner Gallery’. The plate is titled ‘Heidelberg’, but the accompanying description calls it ‘Heidelberg in the Olden Time’. All the early commentators found the topography problematic.

Strangely, perhaps, the topographic issues were acknowledged more by the very earliest commentators than any more recently.

The first is Ralph Wornum’s description that accompanied the engraving in The Turner Gallery:
‘No.42. Heidelberg in the Olden Time. Copied by W Goodall. Engraved by T.A.Prior.
A fanciful restoration of the celebrated old medieval castle on the banks of the Neckar, founded by Conrad II, and long the residence of the German emperors and Counts of Baden. A feast and merry-making is represented in the courtyard of the schloss, where the lord and lady are receiving their guests. The castle was destroyed by the French in 1689. Turner has converted the hills of the Neckar and the whole scene is quite arbitrarily treated.’

Walter Thornbury, who wrote the first full-length biography of Turner, but who is usually introduced by modern scholars in order to be given a good pummelling, was the next to observe the license: ‘The painter has restored the palace of the German Emperor and the Counts of Baden, the French partly destroyed in 1689, according to his own fantasy.’ Plainly to his credit he had noticed that Turner’s castle didn’t look very much like that of Heidelberg present or past.

The same theme was picked up by the Art Journal in 1864 when it republished the engraving:
[The castle] ..stands on the left bank of the Neckar, with the city of Heidelberg at its feet, and a range of comparatively loft hills in front and at the back, but not of such height as Turner has given to them. Here, as in many other of his pictures, the artist has done little more than borrowed some ideas from the locality, which he has worked up according to his own fancy. For example, he has rebuilt the castle – which for many years has presented no other appearance than a magnificent ruin – as it might be supposed to be when it formed the palatial residence of the Electors Palatine of the Rhine; he has invested the scenery around with a grandeur which, amid all its beauty, does not belong to it, and he has peopled it with a courtly throng, such as for centuries neither city nor castle has witnessed – princes, and nobles, and knights, and ecclesiastical dignitaries, and fair women, holding high revel in the open air. It is a gorgeous representation of olden time pageantry, conceived in that intense poetic spirit which is so prominent a feature in all Turner’s compositions, and which we willingly accept in lieu of the more prosaic treatment the subject would undoubtedly have received from one who only regarded truth of locality, and aimed at naturalism rather than idealism.

It is a fairly common trope of Turner commentary that Turner only becomes fully himself when liberated from topography. The Art Journal goes on to laud the multitude of lines of possible interpretation that have thus been liberated from the trammels of locality and naturalism.

In 1875 a new series of The Turner Gallery was issued with new commentaries by W Cosmo Monkhouse. He found the topographical issues critically troubling. His comments are worth reproducing whole:

W Cosmo Monkhouse’s commentary from ‘The Turner Gallery’, published 1875
W Cosmo Monkhouse’s commentary from ‘The Turner Gallery’, published 1875

Hardly a single subsequent comment even acknowledges that there might be any kind of issue with the topography. It seems presumed that no serious modern commentator needs to be concerned with such matters. Sir Walter Armstrong’s 1902 description was completely untroubled: ‘Looking west from hillside above castle. Crowds of gaily dressed figures merry-making. Castle restored’ and the most important recent commentaries on the painting by Andrew Wilton (Turner and the Sublime, 1980, under no.92) and Cecilia Powell (Turner in Germany, 1995, no.131) have built upon an acceptance of the subject as Heidelberg to follow Martin Butlin in the catalogue of the Turner Bicentenary exhibition of 1975, to interpret the regal couple and festive crowd in the foreground as specifically representing the festivities celebrating the installation at Heidelberg of Elector Frederick V and Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James 1 following their wedding in 1613.

Heidelberg Castle and Town from the Garden Terrace: Sunset Photograph by David Hill, 26 August 2015, 17.22 GMT
Heidelberg Castle and Town from the Garden Terrace: Sunset
Photograph by David Hill, 26 August 2015, 17.22 GMT

The truth is that Turner’s painting doesn’t look anything like Heidelberg. The only level on which there is any connection is that of abstract general description. There is a castle on a hillside to the left with a town below; there is a valley running into the distance at the right; the sun is in the sky in the right distance. Turner’s castle has a tower to the left, and some Renaissance gables in the centre and a terrace towards the right. So too, Heidelberg, but none of Turner’s specific features makes any real correspondence with those of Heidelberg. The town in the painting bears no resemblance whatsoever to that of Heidelberg, and the painted valley is alpine. The early commentators were variously concerned that there is no sign of the river Neckar, or of Heidelberg Bridge, its statues, bridge towers or the distinctive staged tower of the Heiliggeistkirche and bemused that Turner’s mountains are plainly snow-capped. If Turner has ‘borrowed any ideas of the locality’ of Heidelberg in this picture, it is pretty hard to see quite what they were. Even harder in the light of the evidence that the previous instalments of this article have been at pains to establish, that Turner had a perfect idea of what the locality and architecture of Heidelberg consisted.

J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of castle, left side Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
J M W Turner
A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of castle, left side
Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms)
Tate, London, N00518
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate

Heidelberg Castle from the Garden Terrace Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 7.52 GMT One of the principal viewpoints at Heidelberg is from the magnificent elevated terrace that forms the east side of the gardens of Heidelberg Castle. Turner made numerous sketches there, including his first impression at the beginning of the terrace at its south end (7a) where he appears to have been a little distracted by two rather glamorous ladies that took his eye away from the scenery. As is typical of him, he looked to go further than the regular circuit, so he embarked upon a fairly strenuous (I can testify) clamber around the slopes above the castle to find still more elevated views. His next sketch in the series (8a), is somewhat beyond and above the north end of the terrace. His vantage point must have been quite precarious on the edge of a considerable cliff above the Neckar. He made several further sketches on the slopes, culminating in one (12) at about the height of a path called the ‘Elisabethanweg’. The effort of attempting views above the level of the terrace today is wasted; they being all blocked either by new building or unchecked tree growth.
Heidelberg Castle from the Garden Terrace
Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 7.52 GMT
It is plain that the castle in the painting does not even remotely resemble that of Heidelberg as seen looking down the valley.

Heidelberg Castle from the south east Photograph by David Hill, taken 25 August 2015, 17.56 GMT The castle in the painting does, however, bear some resemblance, at least in general massing to Heidelberg castle as seen from the south west. The similarity almost certainly licensed the identification. Turner painted this aspect in his watercolours of Heidelberg but no-one has questioned its incompatibility with a view down the valley.
Heidelberg Castle from the south west
Photograph by David Hill, taken 25 August 2015, 17.56 GMT
The castle in the painting does, however, bear some resemblance, at least in general massing to Heidelberg castle as seen from the south west. The similarity almost certainly licensed the identification. Turner painted this aspect in his watercolours of Heidelberg but no-one has questioned its incompatibility with a view down the valley.

J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of town and valley centre and lower right Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate If Heidelberg, where is the bridge, let alone anything recognisable of the town?
J M W Turner
A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of town and valley centre and lower right
Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms)
Tate, London, N00518
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
If Heidelberg, where is the bridge, let alone anything recognisable of the town?

Heidelberg Town, Bridge and River from the Garden Terrace Photograph by David Hill, taken 26 August, 2015, 07.46 GMT It is hard to relate anything in Turner’s painting to this.
Heidelberg Town, Bridge and River from the Garden Terrace
Photograph by David Hill, taken 26 August, 2015, 07.46 GMT
It is hard to relate anything in Turner’s painting to this.

J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of snow-capped mountains, upper left Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate These peaks are more like 3000m + mountains of the Alps.
J M W Turner
A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of snow-capped mountains, upper left
Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms)
Tate, London, N00518
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
These peaks are more like 3000m + mountains of the Alps.

J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of snow-capped mountains, upper right Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
J M W Turner
A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of snow-capped mountains, upper right
Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms)
Tate, London, N00518
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate

Sadly also for the putative allusion to Frederick V and Elizabeth Stuart. If that were indeed the case, one would expect there to be some recognisable portrait connection, or some circumstantial link. Neither figure at all resembles any portrait that I can find. In fact the male figure is plainly of an earlier type of the High Renaissance, belonging to the generation of Henry VIII or Francis I of France.

J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of Royal Couple, bottom left Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate These are usually identified as Frederick V and his bride Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James ! of England, who were married in 1613 and lived at Heidelberg. If so one might expect Turner to have researched their likenesses, but there are no comparisons that I can find. The male figure seems an earlier type, more of the generation of Henry VII or Francis 1 of France.
J M W Turner
A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of Royal Couple, bottom left
Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms)
Tate, London, N00518
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
These are usually identified as Frederick V and his bride Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James 1 of England, who were married in 1613 and lived at Heidelberg. If so one might expect Turner to have researched their likenesses, but there are no comparisons that I can find. The male figure seems an earlier type, more of the generation of Henry VII or Francis 1 of France.

Gerard van Honthorst 1590-1656 Portrait of Frederick V, Elector Palatine, 1634 Oil on canvas Heidelberg, Kurpfalzisches Museum  Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gerard_van_Honthorst_006.jpg Apart from the fact that Frederick here wears royal robes, he has nothing in common with the Renaissance type that Turner includes in the painting. The seventeenth century preferred fancy lace collars, and length and elegance in both physique and facial hair.
Gerard van Honthorst 1590-1656
Portrait of Frederick V, Elector Palatine, 1634
Oil on canvas
Heidelberg, Kurpfalzisches Museum
Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gerard_van_Honthorst_006.jpg
Apart from the fact that Frederick here wears royal robes, he has nothing in common with the Renaissance type that Turner includes in the painting. The seventeenth century preferred fancy lace collars, and length and elegance in both physique and facial hair.

The obvious circumstantial link would be with the splendid terraced gardens that are such a feature of the castle today, and which were plainly explored and recorded by Turner. These were begun for Elizabeth in 1614 and Elizabeth’s former tutor Salomon de Caus was brought over from the English court to oversee operations. This was landscaping on a simply epic scale, and the terraces were regarded as an eighth wonder of the world. Turner had looked over them to sketch the castle and recorded ladies promenading upon them. Of them in Turner’s painting, however, there is not a hint.

Jaques Fouquiere (1591-1659) Heidelberg Castle and the Hortus Palatinus, c.1620 Oil on canvas, 179 x 263 cm Heidelberg, Kurpfälzisches Museum der Stadt Heidelberg The terraced gardens at Heidelberg were built for Elizabeth Stuart from 1614, and were regarded as the eighth wonder of the world. There is no sign of them in Turner’s painting. Image source: Wikimedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hortus_Palatinus#/media/File:Hortus_Palatinus_und_Heidelberger_Schloss_von_Jacques_Fouquiere.jpg
Jaques Fouquiere (1591-1659)
Heidelberg Castle and the Hortus Palatinus, c.1620
Oil on canvas, 179 x 263 cm
Heidelberg, Kurpfälzisches Museum der Stadt Heidelberg
The terraced gardens at Heidelberg were built for Elizabeth Stuart from 1614, and were regarded as the eighth wonder of the world. There is no sign of them in Turner’s painting.
Image source: Wikimedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hortus_Palatinus#/media/File:Hortus_Palatinus_und_Heidelberger_Schloss_von_Jacques_Fouquiere.jpg

Heidelberg Hortus Palatinus Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 09.09 GMT
Heidelberg Hortus Palatinus
Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 09.09 GMT

The insufficiency in relation between the painting and Heidelberg did prompt me to consider whether the subject might be another site altogether. After imaginatively traversing every Alpine valley that I could think of, I was forced to the conclusion that there were several valleys that might fit the bill, but none of them have a castle of this size or character. That is until I came across the following sketch:

 J M W Turner Ruined Castle, with Mountains, 1841?c Pencil with slight touches of watercolour on paper, 227 x 325 mm A page from the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook’, Tate D33664.Turner Bequest CCCXXXIX 11 Tate Britain, London Self-evidently related to the painting called ‘Heidelberg’. But of somewhere else altogether. Photo courtesy of Tate. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-ruined-castle-with-mountains-d33664
J M W Turner
Ruined Castle, with Mountains, 1841?c
Pencil with slight touches of watercolour on paper, 227 x 325 mm
A page from the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook’, Tate D33664.Turner Bequest CCCXXXIX 11
Tate Britain, London
Self-evidently related to the painting called ‘Heidelberg’. But of somewhere else altogether.
Photo courtesy of Tate. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-ruined-castle-with-mountains-d33664

The general composition of the sketch is exactly that of Turner’s painting. The castle has the same general massing, there is a valley flanked by Alpine mountains with some good degree of correspondence with those in the painting. The general space of the foreground is similar, and the diagonal running from the centre to the bottom right is exactly the same, and there are suggestions of churches and spires to correspond with those in the painting, particularly at the bottom right.

Frustratingly the subject has not yet been identified. The sketch is the sole pencil drawing in a sketchbook called the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook (Tate, Turner Bequest, TB CCCXXXIX) together with twelve watercolour studies, the majority recording the same unidentified Alpine location. There is a town in an Alpine valley, with church tower topped by an onion dome in a small town beneath a hill crowned by a castle (or perhaps two separate castles). The sketchbook has been little studied or exhibited, and none of the subjects have been identified.

The paper is watermarked ‘J Whatman. Turkey Mill. 1839’, as is another, similar sketchbook called the ‘Como and Splugen’ sketchbook (Tate, TB CCCXXXVIII) after some of its subjects that have been identified. It seems a reasonable supposition that the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook was used on the same crossing of the Splugen pass from the Upper Rhine valley in Switzerland to Chiavenna and Lake Como in Italy, usually dated to 1841.

[Gallery of sketches from ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook. Click on any image to enlarge and display captions]

The coloured sketches in the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook are, however beautiful and interesting, not at all consistent with the topography of the painting. Those that relate to the pencil sketch clearly show two small castles on an eminence overlooking a town, and suggest that the evident mass of the castle in the pencil sketch is something of an illusion caused by a visual conflation of two aligned but separate subjects.

This will only become positively verifiable once the proper locality is discovered, but it seems clear that the undoubted similarity between the sketch and the painting does not amount to a substantive topographical relation. The sketch is more like the painting, however than anything that Turner drew at Heidelberg, and so much so as to self-evidently suggest a relationship. It is clear, however that the details of the sketch are much more suggestive than defined and permit a variety of imaginative interpretations. My proposition, therefore is that its ambiguity prompted Turner to use it as a compositional stimulus to build an imaginative landscape in the painting.

So we must I think abandon all attempts to treat the painting as a work of topography. Despite the long history of treatments on the basis of some assumed relationship with Heidelberg in truth there is nothing to suggest that Turner himself ever intended any such link to be made. The title was conferred when the schedule of the Turner Bequest was drawn up in 1856, five years after the artist’s death. Turner never exhibited the painting, nor recorded any title with it. It is perfectly possible that the title was a surmise on the part of the executors.

Indeed if the painting does draw anything from Heidelberg it does so in such a way as to deny any connection. On the other hand there is an evident connection with a topographical sketch, but the sketch is so ambiguous in its specific topography that its serves only as a general compositional starting point. In short, the painting must be seen first and foremost as an imaginative landscape; any putative connection with Heidelberg has merely served to set the picture in an inappropriate frame.

That said, the picture draws deeply on Turner’s experience of topography. It seems certain that the scale and massing of the castle, its towers and Renaissance gables, does draw upon Heidelberg. After all, Turner painted no fewer than three grand watercolours of the view of the castle from the river. In truth we might say that in developing the forms and details of the painting, he synthesised a variety of aspects of his Continental travels. The snowy mountains and deep ‘V’ shaped valley, plus the suggestion of a considerable church tower crowned with a small spire at the lower right, puts me very much in mind of the Val d’Aosta. I spent a very happy few years tramping up and down that valley in the late 1990s in preparation for the exhibition of Turner, Mont Blanc and the Val d’Aosta at the Archaeological Museum in Aosta in 2000. The Val d’Aosta has very much more the character of the valley in this painting than does Heidelberg. I am reminded somewhat of the view down the valley from below Aosta itself. There is a sketch in the Turner Bequest made on Turner’s visit to the Val d’Aosta in 1836 that records this view from above the church of Villair, where there is a church tower like that in the lower right of the painting, and a castle, the Chateau Quart overlooking the valley from the left. But Quart is nothing like the castle in the painting, and specific topographic relations turn out to be as vague as with Heidelberg. Nonetheless the snow-capped peaks, depth of valley, and the form of the church tower at the bottom right suggests that Turner was drawing from the rich store of his Val d’Aostan experience.

J M W Turner L’Eglise in the Val d’Aosta, with Quart castle beyond, 1836 Graphite on paper, 261 x 278 mm Tate Britain, London, D34881, Turner Bequest CCCXLIV 389 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-leglise-in-the-val-daosta-with-quart-castle-beyond-d34881
J M W Turner
Church of Villair in the Val d’Aosta, with Quart castle beyond, 1836
Graphite on paper, 261 x 278 mm
Tate Britain, London, D34881, Turner Bequest CCCXLIV 389
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-leglise-in-the-val-daosta-with-quart-castle-beyond-d34881

L’Eglise in the Val d’Aosta, with Quart castle beyond Photograph by David Hill taken June 1999.
Church of Villair in the Val d’Aosta, with Quart castle beyond
Photograph by David Hill taken June 1999.

Another memory that seems to feed into the more general form of the valley is that of the view of the Susa valley as seen from the ascent to the Mont Cenis pass. Turner passed that way in the later stages of the tour of 1836 after he had visited the Val d’Aosta. He made a number of sketches of this subject, and there is one watercolour by his hand and another, not by him, but clearly related, and possibly (I wondered) by his travelling companion on that tour H A J Munro of Novar, The colour, and general landforms, seem to relate to the ‘Heidelberg’ painting very well.

J M W Turner The Ascent of the Mont Cenis Pass above Susa, 1836 Watercolour, 222 x 280 mm Christie's 30 June 1981 no.126 as ‘View along an Alpine Valley, probably the Val d'Aosta’. Image courtesy of Christie’s Identified in Turner, Mont Blanc and the Val d’Aosta, 2000, p.241 as the view over Susa towards Turin from above the church of Giaglione. The general forms of the landscape compare more closely with Turner’s painting, than do those of Heidelberg.
J M W Turner
The Ascent of the Mont Cenis Pass above Susa, 1836
Watercolour, 222 x 280 mm
Christie’s 30 June 1981 no.126 as ‘View along an Alpine Valley, probably the Val d’Aosta’.
Image courtesy of Christie’s
Identified in Turner, Mont Blanc and the Val d’Aosta, 2000, p.241 as the view over Susa towards Turin from above the church of Giaglione. The general forms of the landscape compare more closely with Turner’s painting, than do those of Heidelberg.

?H A J Munro of Novar The Ascent of the Mont Cenis Pass above Susa, 1836 Pencil and watercolour, 231 x 300 mm USA, New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, Yale Art Gallery Collection, John Hill Fund, B1979.12.830 as ‘Mountain Scene, Mist Rising; unknown artist, style of Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775–1851, British Image courtesy of Yale University, http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1666857 Munro was Turner’s travelling companion on the tour of 1836. Given the similarity of this to the Christie’s watercolour, it may be identified as a similar vantage point, and given the approximation to Turner’s manner, it seems possible that it was made under Turner’s instruction. We do know that such instruction took place (see SublimeSites, ‘Turner at Sallanches’, 19 March 2015) but this would be the first product of the instruction to be identified.
?H A J Munro of Novar
The Ascent of the Mont Cenis Pass above Susa, 1836
Pencil and watercolour, 231 x 300 mm
USA, New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, Yale Art Gallery Collection, John Hill Fund, B1979.12.830 as ‘Mountain Scene, Mist Rising; unknown artist, style of Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775–1851, British
Image courtesy of Yale University, http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1666857
Munro was Turner’s travelling companion on the tour of 1836. Given the similarity of this to the Christie’s watercolour, it may be identified as a similar vantage point, and given the approximation to Turner’s manner, it seems possible that it was made under Turner’s instruction. We do know that such instruction took place (see SublimeSites, ‘Turner at Sallanches’, 19 March 2015) but this would be the first product of the instruction to be identified.

Google Earth Street View image of the view from the ascent to Mont Cenis, looking over Susa towards Turin.
Google Earth Street View image of the view from the ascent to Mont Cenis, looking over Susa towards Turin.

It is perhaps time that we gave some consideration to the date of the painting. Early commentators all agree on a date of about 1835, but more recent commentary by Andrew Wilton and Cecilia Powell has settled on c.1844-5. The style, however, with its bold and painterly impasto, palette knife, smoothing, melding, in conjunction with careful brushwork, with colours both opaque and transparent, has a range of material frankness combined with extreme delicacy that thoroughly relates only to exhibited works from the years 1841 and 1842. Most of these are very different kinds of subjects; Dawn of Christianity (Flight into Egypt) (Ulster Museum, Belfast) exhibited in 1841 is one, War. The Exile and the Rock Limpet (Tate) exhibited in 1842 is another, but by 1843 and 1844 Turner’s handling gives way to something more liminal, as if the material were still in the process working out how to form the objects it wants to become. For a brief period before that, however, he was entirely bent on displaying his entire range of painterly technique, in places as unguardedly as in any sketch. There are isolated earlier works with which it might be equated, the famous 1837 exhibit Snow-Storm, Avalanche and Inundation – a Scene in the Upper Part of Val d’Aouste, Piedmont (Art Institute of Chicago) is one, but the majority of his exhibits between then and 1840 are much more thoroughly finessed.

J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of handling, centre left (1)  Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
J M W Turner
A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of handling, centre left (1)
Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms)
Tate, London, N00518
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate

J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of handling, centre left (2)  Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
J M W Turner
A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of handling, centre left (2)
Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms)
Tate, London, N00518
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate

One potential complication is that the canvas has a duty stamp dated 1830. It seems inconceivable that Turner would have kept a stretched canvas standing around in his studio unused for ten or twelve years whilst in the meantime making scores of paintings on new-bought canvases. So whilst it seems clear that most of what we see appears to be of 1841-2 in date, there is the possibility that he laid in a beginning of a composition sometime considerably earlier. That opens up all manner of possibilities. In 1831 he made an extensive tour to collect subject to illustrate the life and works of Sir Walter Scott. He painted several large paintings of Byronic themes, but there are no equivalents for Scott. Another scenario might be (for example) that Turner laid in a Val d’Aostan or other Alpine valley and then added the castle to it; a kind of ‘Hybridberg’. It would also presume that there is at least two distinct phases of work ie that the majority of the landscape is the first phase, and that the castle was overpainted onto that at some later stage. I have to say that when I examined the painting for signs of that, I could see nothing obvious. Any lay-in might have been thinly painted, so not show through at all, but the surface seems relatively homogenous, and its long, thin, curving ‘French’ craquelure [see Spike Bucklow, ‘The Description of Craquelure Patterns’. in Studies in Conservation, 42/3, 1997, 129-40] is typical of well-bound layers painted onto a canvas prepared with a good, flexible ground, and give the painting very much the appearance of having been developed in a single campaign, with its major compositional elements equally constituent parts of the original conception. Taking all this together, and the relationship to the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook drawing, whose watermark would date the sketch no earlier than 1839, a date of 1841-2 seems to sit the painting most comfortably into Turner’s oeuvre.

 J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of upper left, by raking light,  Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate Taken by raking light to show homogeneity of craquelure and texture across the castle; suggesting that the painting represents a single, sustained campaign of work, rather than separate phases of work separated by several years.

J M W Turner
A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of upper left, by raking light,
Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms)
Tate, London, N00518
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
Taken by raking light to show homogeneity of craquelure and texture across the castle; suggesting that the painting represents a single, sustained campaign of work, rather than separate phases of work separated by several years.

If we dispense with specific topographical reference altogether, then we must begin to consider the picture in an altogether different frame. In Turner’s work, fictional landscapes are generally reserved for fictional subjects, so there must yet be a literary reference here to be identified. What that might be I will save for a little later, but before that must address the fact that no-one ever seems to have considered the figures at anything like the length that they deserve.

Let us start with the Royal couple. If we discard the idea that Turner ever intended any recognisable relationship with Heidelberg then we must give up the proposed correspondence with Frederick V and Elizabeth Stuart. Nonetheless the couple do project a very specific character, and play a distinctive role within the composition.

The male figure has more of the bulk, beard and demeanour of a High Renaissance king. I have not been able to find an exact parallel, but he reminds me particularly of Titian’s 1538 Portrait of Francis 1 (Paris Louvre). The profile treatment is especially striking, for it was already old-fashioned by the date of the painting. Portrait profiles were most popular in the later fifteenth century. Titian used one of Francis as the basis of his painting. So the Royal type in the painting suggests a date no later than the first half of the sixteenth century.

If we consider the situation of the royal couple, it becomes evident that something quite specific is occurring. The most obvious detail is that of two pikes laid down before them. These may be identified specifically as Swiss halberds. This was the distinguishing weapon of the troops of Swiss mercenaries that provided fearsome advantage to French Royal and Papal armies in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries until firearms made them redundant. Their inclusion here might suggest a High Renaissance date for the subject, although they remained in ceremonial use long after (even to this day) their military significance waned. In the very specific way in which they have been laid down before the Royal couple, however, they may be taken as the literal representation of a laying down of arms, and to explain the considerable pile of armoured greaves and gauntlets that have been deposited besides.

J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of halberds and armour, bottom left Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
J M W Turner
A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of halberds and armour, bottom left
Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms)
Tate, London, N00518
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate

Hallebarde_177
Swiss halberd (“Solothurn” style), early 16th century. On display at Morges military museum, accession number 176 Source of image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_arms_and_armour#/media/File:Hallebarde_177.jpg Firearms meant that these all but disappeared as a serious weapon by the middle of the C16.

Not only is there a laying down of arms, but also a rich bounty. The implication is that the men of arms and nobility are her gathered to ceremonially submit and bring tribute to the King and Queen. No commentator has ever, I believe, made any specific reference to the bare-headed figure that makes obeisance to the couple. He seems to me to be an extremely significant figure that might help unlock more specific allusion in the subject. He wears doublet and hose typical of the later sixteenth/ early seventeenth centuries, under a rich, thick woollen cloak, and doffs a large, feathered hat. His bearing is courtly and ceremonially deferential, and the cloak perhaps tells of a journey to be here.

Behind him is a heap of coloured cloths draped over some kind of pedestal or frame. Perhaps these are standards of the nobles, laid down at the end or surrender of hostilities. A little further back, a similar figure to that bowing turns away, his homage paid.

So a time of arms cedes to a time of love. The centre foreground is a sea of people, the crowd punctuated by couples embracing, animated children and open, happy faces. To the far left a soldier dances with a young woman, in the left foreground a bugler takes the waist of a bonneted woman, in the centre a dark visage looks over the shoulder of a woman held in close embrace, whist just beyond and young couple gaze tete-a-tete towards us. In the left foreground an older man happily (perhaps a little too enthusiastically) takes the waist of an elegantly bodiced young woman.

[Click on any image to open full-size in a gallery]


So there is an obvious general story here of peace presided over by a Royal couple. Given the date here argued for the painting, it is tempting to wonder about some possible allusion to the recent marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert, which had taken place on 10 February 1840, but there is nothing in the picture that I can see to signpost any such allusion. Given the observation that Turner generally reserved fictive landscape for fictive events, a more likely line of speculation is that the painting represents a literary subject.

It was only in further puzzling over the sketches in the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook [still failing to pinpoint the locations] that I realised that the literary source was right there amongst the topographical sketches. One page contains the draft of a passage of poetry.

J M W Turner A draft composition of a passage of poetry, 1841? (whole page) Pencil on paper, page size 227 x 325 mm A page from the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook’, Tate D40432.Turner Bequest CCCXXXIX 11 Tate Britain, London Photo courtesy of Tate. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-title-not-known-d40432
J M W Turner
A draft composition of a passage of poetry, 1841? (whole page)
Pencil on paper, page size 227 x 325 mm
A page from the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook’, Tate D40432.Turner Bequest CCCXXXIX 11
Tate Britain, London
Photo courtesy of Tate. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-title-not-known-d40432

J M W Turner A draft composition of a passage of poetry, 1841? (detail #1) Pencil on paper, page size 227 x 325 mm A page from the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook’, Tate D40432.Turner Bequest CCCXXXIX 11 Tate Britain, London Photo courtesy of Tate. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-title-not-known-d40432
J M W Turner
A draft composition of a passage of poetry, 1841? (detail #1)
Pencil on paper, page size 227 x 325 mm
A page from the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook’, Tate D40432.Turner Bequest CCCXXXIX 11
Tate Britain, London
Photo courtesy of Tate. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-title-not-known-d40432

J M W Turner A draft composition of a passage of poetry, 1841? (detail #2) Pencil on paper, page size 227 x 325 mm A page from the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook’, Tate D40432.Turner Bequest CCCXXXIX 11 Tate Britain, London Photo courtesy of Tate. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-title-not-known-d40432
J M W Turner
A draft composition of a passage of poetry, 1841? (detail #2)
Pencil on paper, page size 227 x 325 mm
A page from the ‘Mountain Fortress’ sketchbook’, Tate D40432.Turner Bequest CCCXXXIX 11
Tate Britain, London
Photo courtesy of Tate. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-title-not-known-d40432

Turner’s handwriting is notoriously difficult, but enough is decipherable to make certain association with the Tate painting.

‘While {Thus] Rose the morning its towers blush
The hills glittered with rising ray

The snow clad hills shine to the rising ray
And oer the [?illeg] blush the Sun with rising shed
Its lustre far over Tower and Stream and all looked gay
Festivity and Mirth – but in the [now] setting beam
Empurpled the deep vale – sad [?illeg] warned
The Lion of St Mark had Conquered’

All the key elements of the painting are here. The rose-blushed towers, snow-clad hills, a rising or setting sun, Tower and Stream, gaiety, festivity and mirth, an empurpled vale. And the last line clearly connects the subject matter with Venice – ‘The Lion of St Mark had conquered’.

The fact that this is an evolving draft, seems to prove that this is Turner’s own composition, and his sketchbooks are littered with fragments of an epic poem called the Fallacies of Hope’ that never seems to have amounted to nothing more substantial than a smattering of epigraphs for exhibited paintings. His syntax is generally creatively convoluted and here it is ambiguous whether the Lion of St Mark has been conquered or itself done the conquering. On the whole, however is seems more like the former. Tracing the sense back from the last line it appears as if it is ‘Festivity and Mirth’ that ‘sad [?illeg] warned, The Lion of St Mark had conquered’.

It is a commonplace of the history of Venice that the very quality of civil living that it created was the source of its undoing. Founded on discipline and martial (particularly naval) vigour, the republic grew rich, and then In becoming an island playground it wasted its strength. In Turner’s time this process was understood to have culminated in the surrender of the republic to Napoleon, and its subsequent occupation by the Austrians, but Turner may have been thinking of its first major reverse in the years of the High Renaissance. Virtually every one of the major powers of Europe, the Holy Roman Empire, the Papacy and France sought its downfall, and in 1509 suffered a major military defeat at the hands of the French at the Battle of Agnedello. The republic survived, but was never again quite the full master of its own destiny. As Machiavelli put it in The Prince, on that day the Venetians ‘lost what it had taken eight hundred year’s exertion to conquer’. There is perhaps not quite enough to make a clear equation, but the kingly figure in the painting points to this period in history, and the North Italian wars of the early sixteenth century were the period of peak military importance for Swiss halberdsmen.

Quite how the specific events envisioned by Turner might relate to this period is far from resolved, but in lieu of that we might go on just a little further with the process of description. Ralph Wornum described the setting as ‘the courtyard of the schloss’, but this is very far from the case. In fact quite strikingly the gathering takes place at a considerable remove from the castle. This gives it a rather impromptu appearance. There are no pavilions or marquees or banqueting houses. As Turner knew full well, the weather in the Alps is never so reliable as to permit the planning of any fete without some provision for inclemency.

The theme of removal into nature is reinforced in another respect. The event location is on a wide terrace above the town. To the right a column of figures are still evidently in the process of ascending from the depths below. In the geomorphological scheme of things the bottom of the valley is where things flow away. Everywhere a strife towards ascendency; trees, towers and people, is contrasted with matter flowing away, most splendidly in the wreaths of water coiling and tumbling down into the valley. It is as if the terrace on which this crowd gathers is an intermediate stage between the base on which the struggle against dissolution is fought, and that on which aspiration is built.

J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of tumbling water  Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate
J M W Turner
A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of tumbling water
Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms)
Tate, London, N00518
Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate

And above all there is the light. It is important that this takes place outdoors, for above all it is a celebration of simply being in the light. As Wornum observed ‘the figures in the foreground not only give an air of festivity to the scene, but break up the light in a very pleasant manner’. Wornum, followed by a number of commentators, compares this with another well-known crowd scene of Turner from this period, a watercolour of Zurich of about 1845 (Kunsthaus. Zurich).

J M W Turner Zurich: fete, early morning, c.1845 Watercolour, 292 x 475mm, 11 1/2 x 18 3/4 ins Switzerland, Zurich, Kunsthaus  (1976/14) Photograph courtesy of Kunsthaus, Zurich The crowd in this watercolour is often compared to that in the painting of ‘Heidelberg’.
J M W Turner
Zurich: fete, early morning, c.1845
Watercolour, 292 x 475mm, 11 1/2 x 18 3/4 ins
Switzerland, Zurich, Kunsthaus (1976/14)
Photograph courtesy of Kunsthaus, Zurich
The crowd in this watercolour is often compared to that in the painting of ‘Heidelberg’.

Tate Heidelberg detail of figures
J M W Turner A Castle in an Alpine Valley, called ‘Heidelberg’, c.1842, detail of figures (whole group) Oil on canvas, 52 × 79 ½ ins (132 × 201 cms) Tate, London, N00518 Photograph by David Hill, courtesy of Tate

But no-one but Wornum describes the function of the crowd as merely to pleasantly ‘break up the light’. And indeed it is almost precisely a device to pick up the lemon yellow that surrounds the sun and scatter it in gobbets and splatters throughout the foreground. This energy made substance stands behind the 1966 observation by Lawrence Gowing in his Turner: Imagination and Reality (p.38) ‘..cool light floods Heidelberg, one of the pictures that embrace a scene as vast as the world-view landscapes of tradition. The visions of the world as an endless continuum are appropriately peopled with almost indeterminate human clay, barely separated into individuals’. On the formal level Gowing’s observation may be produced a little further towards the articulation of what is staged by the painting in purely visual terms. I am reminded by it that the painting is after all one of Turner’s richest painterly performances. Everything in it is in dynamic motion. The paint is not just human clay but that of material creation, energetically upthrusting, and melting away. Given some time in the air and sun, and the peace in which to flourish, this can becomes a festively pullulating mass. Whatever its historic pretext might turn out to be, it is perhaps the defining work of his entry into his own last phase. A celebration of how vital life can be, when it is allowed the peace to be, and how dynamic when one turns to experience it at its most outward. And how part of that vitality is its inevitable dissolution.

Tate Heidelberg detail sun

Supported by the Pilkington Anglo-Japanese Cultural Foundation

Logo

https://www.google.co.uk/#q=pilkington+anglo-japanese+cultural+foundation

In Turner’s Footsteps at Heidelberg: Part 4

This post continues the essay begun on 19 October 2015 and continued on 18 November 2015, and 20 November 2015. In part #1, I followed in the footsteps of Turner’s comprehensive exploration of Heidelberg in 1833. In part #2, I looked at a major finished watercolour that he developed in the early 1840s, and a return visit to Heidelberg at the same time. In part #3 I looked at the deepening sublimity of his treatment of the site in three colour studies and a second major watercolour of c.1842. Here I retrace his last visit to Heidelberg in 1844 when he made some new pencil sketches and a wonderful series of colour studies. We know the exact dates of this visit, 24-27 August, so that was my cue for following in Turner’s footsteps on exactly the same dates in 2015.

Heidelberg Castle and Town from the Garden Terrace: Sunset Photograph by David Hill, 26 August 2015, 17.22 GMT
Heidelberg Castle and Town from the Garden Terrace: Sunset
Photograph by David Hill, 26 August 2015, 17.22 GMT

The occasion of Turner’s 1844 visit to Heidelberg was an extremely wet summer. He spent a few weeks in the Alps around Lucerne and Grindelwald, but was prevented by the weather from crossing any of the high passes south. Eventually, as he said, he gave up, headed back north to the Rhine, got his boots heeled and soled, and spent a few weeks exploring the side valleys, of the Rhine, particularly the Nahe and the Neckar, and much to his delight. Apart from the dates of his stay in Heidelberg, we also know he stayed at the Prinz Carl in the Cornmarket, and a few sketches of the Karlstor, in the On the Neckar sketchbook (Tate, Turner Bequest TB CCCII) , stand at the outset of a walking tour up to Heilbronn and back and the sketchbook is full of animated pencil sketches of Neckar Castles. By this time Turner was also in the habit recording his tours in long series of colour sketches. That of 1844 is no exception and the pencil sketches of the Neckar are accompanied by numerous watercolour studies. It would be wonderful to explore those in Turner’s footsteps but in August I had time only to focus on Heidelberg, and to treat the Neckar in the detail it deserves would be an undertaking of book length.

He was prolific enough in his few days in Heidelberg. His main sequence of pencil sketches is in the CCXCVII Spires & Heidelberg sketchbook. This begins with one fine and composed sketch at Lucerne, but the main sequence consists of very scrappy and mostly unidentified buildings amongst mountains and lakes, presumably in Switzerland. The scrappiness speaks very much of not being unsettled by the weather, and he left several blank pages, which he filled once he retreated north to Heidelberg (and Speyer, which is on the Rhine south of Heidelberg). There is a clutch of sketches of Heidelberg castle from the east and north terrace in the middle of the book, interleaved with drawings of Lucerne. It has to be said that even at Heidelberg Turner’s sketches are rapid and impressionistic, and not at all considered or relaxed. Their style very strongly suggests that he now felt that sketching in pencil was not the primary product of his touring. It was the antenna through which he could derive his sense of a site, but the important work of assimilation was now being invested in colour studies.

His Spires and Heidelberg sketches are exclusively confined to the castle and mostly to the gardens to the east, or the north terrace. His principal interest appears to have been in finding some way of representing the castle by sunset. One sketch (13) from the garden terrace actually shows the sun in the sky, and another from the north terrace (18a) is inscribed ‘the last gleam of sun’.

Heidelberg Castle: Google Earth Aerial View Marking the sites of Turner’s 1844 sketches in the ‘Spires and Heidelberg’ sketchbook. Those reproduced here are highlighted. This image is best viewed at full size. Click on image to enlarge and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
Heidelberg Castle: Google Earth Aerial View
Marking the sites of Turner’s 1844 sketches in the ‘Spires and Heidelberg’ sketchbook. Those reproduced here are highlighted.
This image is best viewed at full size. Click on image to enlarge and then use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.

J M W Turner Heidelberg Castle and Town from the end of the Garden Terrace: Sunset, 1844 Graphite on paper, page size 109 x 170 mm Detail from the Spires and Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D29796; Turner Bequest CCXCVII 13 as ‘Heidelberg from the East’ The main objective of Turner’s 1844 pencil sketches at Heidelberg seems to have been to work out a composition of the sun setting from the terrace. This is a very quick memorandum of the northern end of the terrace, from a quite precarious position just beyond it. His idea seems to have been to find a viewpoint that enabled him to take in the celebrants as well as the setting. Photo courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-east-d29796
J M W Turner
Heidelberg Castle and Town from the end of the Garden Terrace: Sunset, 1844
Graphite on paper, page size 109 x 170 mm
Detail from the Spires and Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D29796; Turner Bequest CCXCVII 13 as ‘Heidelberg from the East’
The main objective of Turner’s 1844 pencil sketches at Heidelberg seems to have been to work out a composition of the sun setting from the terrace. This is a very quick memorandum of the northern end of the terrace, from a quite precarious position just beyond it. His idea seems to have been to find a viewpoint that enabled him to take in the celebrants as well as the setting.
Photo courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-east-d29796

J M W Turner Heidelberg Castle and Town from above the end of the Garden Terrace, 1844 Graphite on paper, page size 109 x 170 mm From the Spires and Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D29799; Turner Bequest CCXCVII 14a as ‘Heidelberg: The Castle and Town from the East’ This is a slightly more relaxed study of the end of the garden terrace with its sundown celebrants. The exact view is no longer photographable because of the growth of trees. Photo courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-the-castle-and-town-from-the-east-d29799
J M W Turner
Heidelberg Castle and Town from above the end of the Garden Terrace, 1844
Graphite on paper, page size 109 x 170 mm
From the Spires and Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D29799; Turner Bequest CCXCVII 14a as ‘Heidelberg: The Castle and Town from the East’
This is a slightly more relaxed study of the end of the garden terrace with its sundown celebrants. The exact view is no longer photographable because of the growth of trees.
Photo courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-the-castle-and-town-from-the-east-d29799

Heidelberg: Sundowners on the Garden Terrace Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 17.45 GMT
Heidelberg: Sundowners on the Garden Terrace
Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 17.45 GMT

J M W Turner Heidelberg Castle: on the North Terrace, looking east, 1844 Graphite on paper, page size 109 x 170 mm From the Spires and Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D29805; Turner Bequest CCXCVII 18 as ‘Heidelberg Castle: The Bell Tower, Friedrich Building and Altan, and View Eastwards to the Terrace’. Here Turner appears to be leaning out of the little turret at the west end of the Altan, to look back at the garden terrace past the Octagonal Tower. Photo courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-castle-the-bell-tower-friedrich-building-and-altan-and-view-eastwards-to-d29805
J M W Turner
Heidelberg Castle: on the North Terrace, looking east, 1844
Graphite on paper, page size 109 x 170 mm
From the Spires and Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D29805; Turner Bequest CCXCVII 18 as ‘Heidelberg Castle: The Bell Tower, Friedrich Building and Altan, and View Eastwards to the Terrace’.
Here Turner appears to be leaning out of the little turret at the west end of the Altan, to look back at the garden terrace past the Octagonal Tower.
Photo courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-castle-the-bell-tower-friedrich-building-and-altan-and-view-eastwards-to-d29805

The North Terrace of Heidelberg Castle, looking east Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 11.20, GMT.
The North Terrace of Heidelberg Castle, looking east
Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 11.20, GMT/>

The North Terrace of Heidelberg Castle, looking west Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 11.32 GMT
The North Terrace of Heidelberg Castle, looking west
Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 11.32 GMT />

J M W Turner Heidelberg Castle: on the North Terrace, looking west at sunset, 1844 Graphite on paper, page size 109 x 170 mm From the Spires and Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D29806; Turner Bequest CCXCVII 18a as ‘Heidelberg Castle: The Friedrich Building and Altan, and View Westwards down the Neckar Photo courtesy of Tate Here Turner is leaning out of the eastern turret looking west, noting ‘the last gleam of the sun’. To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-castle-the-friedrich-building-and-altan-and-view-westwards-down-the-d29806
J M W Turner
Heidelberg Castle: on the North Terrace, looking west at sunset, 1844
Graphite on paper, page size 109 x 170 mm
From the Spires and Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D29806; Turner Bequest CCXCVII 18a as ‘Heidelberg Castle: The Friedrich Building and Altan, and View Westwards down the Neckar
Photo courtesy of Tate
Here Turner is leaning out of the eastern turret looking west, noting ‘the last gleam of the sun’.
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-castle-the-friedrich-building-and-altan-and-view-westwards-down-the-d29806

Heidelberg sunset: Last gleam Photograph by David Hill, taken 26 August 2015, 18.24 GMT
Heidelberg sunset: Last gleam
Photograph by David Hill, taken 26 August 2015, 18.24 GMT

The major product of Turner’s 1844 stay in Heidelberg was a series of nine colour studies. These originally belonged to a ‘roll’ sketchbook (i.e. one with paper covers that could be rolled up for carrying). Turner used such sketchbooks a great deal in his later career, principally for colour studies. This particular sketchbook is called the ‘Heidelberg’ sketchbook, and was still intact after Turner’s death when it came to the nation as part of the Turner Bequest. Ruskin noted that it was a sketchbook of 24 coloured sketches, including ten of Heidelberg. Sometime afterwards Ruskin mounted many of the best pages for exhibition, but somewhere in that process the original pagination of the book was lost. There are still ten sketches of Heidelberg if we count one that is in pencil on the back of one of the coloured sketches. The book was also used for colour sketches of subjects on the river Neckar, made on a pedestrian tour up to Heilbronn, and also for sketches on the river Nahe, which Turner explored later on the same tour.

The sketches are somewhat variable in style and degrees of elaboration, but all record very specific phenomena, particularly effects of morning and evening. Some are pale and delicate, others warm and glowing. They all, however have a remarkable degree of evanescence. As befits, perhaps a season of rain, they are studies principally of the light and atmosphere through which their subjects are seen.

The first is a rare street scene in the town itself, looking to the castle from the Hauptstrasse from outside the Hotel Ritter (12). Another returns to the subject of the bridge, castle and church, but this time from a new viewpoint going up to the Philosophenweg (17). Three study the castle by sunset, one from the garden terrace (9) and two others from a higher viewpoint, looking over the castle from the south-west (8, 15). Finally four sketches return to viewpoints looking to the castle and town from the riverbanks upstream of the bridge (11, 18, 5, 13). In the first he rose early to see whether the dawn might produce some effect, but towards the end of August the sun is already quite high before it illuminates the castle. The best effects were at sunset and he made three studies at intervals approaching the castle from upstream.

The Hauptstrasse, Heiidelberg Photograph by David Hill, taken 26 August 2015, 15.27, GMT
The Hauptstrasse, Heiidelberg
Photograph by David Hill, taken 26 August 2015, 15.27, GMT

J M W Turner View along the Hauptstrasse, Heidelberg, 1844 Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35232; Turner Bequest CCCLII 12 as ‘View along the Hauptstrasse, Heidelberg’ This is an unusual subject for Turner, recording a street scene in the town, rather than a major prospect. Here we are looking along the main street with the walls of the Heiliggeistkirche on the left, the castle seen over the rooftops in the centre, and the buildings on the south side of the Hauptstrasse culminating in the elaborate Renaissance façade of the Hotel Ritter to the right. As is often the case at this stage in his career Turner has synthesised a few viewpoints in this sketch. It is impossible to see the castle as clearly as this except from further down the street, and the angles on the Hotel Ritter and the church are incompatible without shifting position at least once. My photograph is likewise stitched together from three separate images. We can, however, be sure that Turner did made this sketch from the motif. Modern scholars trend towards Turner making his colour studies in his hotel or in the studio after the event, from pencil sketches or from memory. There is no comparable pencil sketch of this, and the phenomenal aspects of the subject, of late afternoon light flooding weakly into a street still cool and wet from rain is vividly given.  Photo courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-view-along-the-hauptstrasse-heidelberg-d35232
J M W Turner
View along the Hauptstrasse, Heidelberg, 1844
Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm
From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35232; Turner Bequest CCCLII 12 as ‘View along the Hauptstrasse, Heidelberg’
This is an unusual subject for Turner, recording a street scene in the town, rather than a major prospect. Here we are looking along the main street with the walls of the Heiliggeistkirche on the left, the castle seen over the rooftops in the centre, and the buildings on the south side of the Hauptstrasse culminating in the elaborate Renaissance façade of the Hotel Ritter to the right. As is often the case at this stage in his career Turner has synthesised a few viewpoints in this sketch. It is impossible to see the castle as clearly as this except from further down the street, and the angles on the Hotel Ritter and the church are incompatible without shifting position at least once. My photograph is likewise stitched together from three separate images. We can, however, be sure that Turner did made this sketch from the motif. Modern scholars trend towards Turner making his colour studies in his hotel or in the studio after the event, from pencil sketches or from memory. There is no comparable pencil sketch of this, and the phenomenal aspects of the subject, of late afternoon light flooding weakly into a street still cool and wet from rain is vividly given.
Photo courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-view-along-the-hauptstrasse-heidelberg-d35232

Heidelberg: Hotel Ritter Photograph by David Hill taken 27 August 2015, 14.21 GMT. The Hotel Ritter is one of the view Renaissance buildings to have survived unscathed at Heidelberg. The fact that Turner gave it some prominence seems to suggest some attachment to it, and perhaps he had stayed there on a previous visit, thou we know that in 1844 he was staying at the Prinz Carl further down the High Street.
Heidelberg: Hotel Ritter
Photograph by David Hill taken 27 August 2015, 14.21 GMT.
The Hotel Ritter is one of the view Renaissance buildings to have survived unscathed at Heidelberg. The fact that Turner gave it some prominence seems to suggest some attachment to it, and perhaps he had stayed there on a previous visit, thou we know that in 1844 he was staying at the Prinz Carl further down the High Street.

J M W Turner Heidelberg from the Schlangenweg, 1844 Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35237; Turner Bequest CCCLII 17 as ‘Heidelberg from the Schlangenweg’ This is the only occasion on which Turner climbed up the Schlangenweg, the zig-zag path that leads up from the old bridge at Heidelberg to the famous high-level walk, the Philosophenweg. Like the sketch of the Hauptstrasse above this study has no pencil equivalent and must have been painted direct from nature. It is remarkably faintly coloured, as is the details of the town were barely visible, contra-jour in a brilliantly suffused mist. Such conditions might frequently met with in a wet summer, with the damp atmosphere reflecting and refracting the sunlight.  Photo courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-schlangenweg-d35237
J M W Turner
Heidelberg from the Schlangenweg, 1844
Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm
From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35237; Turner Bequest CCCLII 17 as ‘Heidelberg from the Schlangenweg’
This is the only occasion on which Turner climbed up the Schlangenweg, the zig-zag path that leads up from the old bridge at Heidelberg to the famous high-level walk, the Philosophenweg. Like the sketch of the Hauptstrasse above this study has no pencil equivalent and must have been painted direct from nature. It is remarkably faintly coloured, as is the details of the town were barely visible, contra-jour in a brilliantly suffused mist. Such conditions might frequently met with in a wet summer, with the damp atmosphere reflecting and refracting the sunlight.
Photo courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-schlangenweg-d35237

Heidelberg Bridge, Castle and Town Photograph by David Hill, taken 25 August 2015, 17.49 GMT Sadly, Turner’s sketch from the Schlangenweg is one of the only subjects that I did not manage to photograph from the exact spot. How it evaded my attention I cannot tell. It seems evident enough that I am not of the same indefatigability as Turner. It may be that eating ice-cream and sitting down played some part in the omission. For now all I can offer is this photograph taken from the same angle but loafing idly on the riverside. bjraven has a photograph taken from a similar angle to the Turner on Panoramio: http://www.panoramio.com/photo_explorer#user=447152&with_photo_id=41674259&order=date_desc
Heidelberg Bridge, Castle and Town
Photograph by David Hill, taken 25 August 2015, 17.49 GMT
Sadly, Turner’s sketch from the Schlangenweg is one of the only subjects that I did not manage to photograph from the exact spot. How it evaded my attention I cannot tell. It seems evident enough that I am not of the same indefatigability as Turner. It may be that eating ice-cream and sitting down played some part in the omission.
For now all I can offer is this photograph taken from the same angle but loafing idly on the riverside.
bjraven has a photograph taken from a similar angle to the Turner on Panoramio: http://www.panoramio.com/photo_explorer#user=447152&with_photo_id=41674259&order=date_desc

J M W Turner Heidelberg Castle from the South West, 1844 Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35235; Turner Bequest CCCLII 15 as ‘Heidelberg from the South’ This is the first of two studies looking over the castle from the south-west. The octagonal tower stands over the courtyard, with the entrance tower in front to the right, and the garden terrace beyond. The tower in the distance left is the part of the ruins of St Michael’s monastery.  This is the most expansive of the two studies, and conditions appear to be cool and perhaps showery, whilst a gleam of mid-afternoon sunlight picks out the castle and the garden terrace. Photo courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-castle-from-the-south-d35235
J M W Turner
Heidelberg Castle from the South West, 1844
Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm
From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35235; Turner Bequest CCCLII 15 as ‘Heidelberg from the South’
This is the first of two studies looking over the castle from the south-west. The octagonal tower stands over the courtyard, with the entrance tower in front to the right, and the garden terrace beyond. The tower in the distance left is the part of the ruins of St Michael’s monastery. This is the most expansive of the two studies, and conditions appear to be cool and perhaps showery, whilst a gleam of mid-afternoon sunlight picks out the castle and the garden terrace.
Photo courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-castle-from-the-south-d35235

Heidelberg Castle from the South West Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 17.10 GMT This is taken from the same angle of view as Turner’s colour studies, but from much lower down and closer to the castle. Even here most of the castle is shielded by trees. The gate tower is behind the tree to the right. The views any higher are everywhere completely obscured. In Turner’s day the hillsides were more open and views from higher viewpoints were popular with artists. Trying to find Turner’s exact viewpoints was a frustrating business. Even allowing for the German love of being immersed in the wald, there seems to be an obvious case here for some judicious pruning.
Heidelberg Castle from the South West
Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 17.10 GMT
This is taken from the same angle of view as Turner’s colour studies, but from much lower down and closer to the castle. Even here most of the castle is shielded by trees. The gate tower is behind the tree to the right. The views any higher are everywhere completely obscured. In Turner’s day the hillsides were more open and views from higher viewpoints were popular with artists. Trying to find Turner’s exact viewpoints was a frustrating business. Even allowing for the German love of being immersed in the wald, there seems to be an obvious case here for some judicious pruning.

J M W Turner Heidelberg Castle from the South West, 1844 Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35228; Turner Bequest CCCLII 8 as ‘Heidelberg from the South’ This is the second of two studies of the castle as seen from the south-west. The sun is getting round to the west, and the air in the valley is filled with warm, dissolving light. One peculiarity of both sketches is that the architectural detail of the castle is vague and one respect rather inaccurate. To the left of the octagonal tower we can see (correctly) the Renaissance gables of the Friedrich building: But to the left of that should be the long range of the Englischer Hof, leading to the Dicker Turm. This has been compressed by Turner. It seems very likely that he could not actually see the whole castle. Nowadays we do at least have the wonders of virtuality (see below). Photo courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-south-d35228
J M W Turner
Heidelberg Castle from the South West, 1844
Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm
From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35228; Turner Bequest CCCLII 8 as ‘Heidelberg from the South’
This is the second of two studies of the castle as seen from the south-west. The sun is getting round to the west, and the air in the valley is filled with warm, dissolving light. One peculiarity of both sketches is that the architectural detail of the castle is vague and one respect rather inaccurate. To the left of the octagonal tower we can see (correctly) the Renaissance gables of the Friedrich building: But to the left of that should be the long range of the Englischer Hof, leading to the Dicker Turm. This has been compressed by Turner. It seems very likely that he could not actually see the whole castle. Nowadays we do at least have the wonders of virtuality (see below).
Photo courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-south-d35228

Heidelberg Castle from the South West Google Earth 3D buildings view.  With some pruning, it might be possible to open up a real view as spectacular as this.
Heidelberg Castle from the South West
Google Earth 3D buildings view.
With some pruning, it might be possible to open up a real view as spectacular as this.

Heidelberg sunset Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 18.20 GMT
Heidelberg sunset
Photograph by David Hill taken 26 August 2015, 18.20 GMT

J M W Turner Heidelberg Castle from the East, 1844 Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35229; Turner Bequest CCCLII 9 as ‘Heidelberg from the East’ Having already sketched in pencil the sunset from the garden terrace, here he sets it down in colour. His viewpoint is actually some way above the terrace itself on the road. It seems to have been a popular vantage point to judge from the indications of figures in this sketch. Sadly, once again there is nothing now to be seen from here but trees. Photo courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-east-d35229
J M W Turner
Heidelberg Castle from the East, 1844
Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm
From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35229; Turner Bequest CCCLII 9 as ‘Heidelberg from the East’
Having already sketched in pencil the sunset from the garden terrace, here he sets it down in colour. His viewpoint is actually some way above the terrace itself on the road. It seems to have been a popular vantage point to judge from the indications of figures in this sketch. Sadly, once again there is nothing now to be seen from here but trees.
Photo courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-east-d35229

Heidelberg Castle from the East Google Earth 3D buildings view.  Again, a site worth considering with a view to pruning.
Heidelberg Castle from the East
Google Earth 3D buildings view.
Again, a site worth considering with a view to pruning.

J M W Turner Heidelberg from upstream, morning, 1844 Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35231; Turner Bequest CCCLII 11 as ‘Heidelberg from the Hirschgasse’ This sketch records morning light from the left, although the colours are soft and muted. Turner generally rose early to see effects of sunrise, but in August at Heidelberg the sun does not illuminate the castle till quite some while after rising. The river here flows from the north east, so the sun rises along that line for a month or so either side of the summer solstice. The views from upstream were one of his priorities in his sketches of 1833. In this he returns close to a viewpoint of one of those, TB CCCXCVIII, 18a.  Photo courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-hirschgasse-d35231
J M W Turner
Heidelberg from upstream, morning, 1844
Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm
From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35231; Turner Bequest CCCLII 11 as ‘Heidelberg from the Hirschgasse’
This sketch records morning light from the left, although the colours are soft and muted. Turner generally rose early to see effects of sunrise, but in August at Heidelberg the sun does not illuminate the castle till quite some while after rising. The river here flows from the north east, so the sun rises along that line for a month or so either side of the summer solstice. The views from upstream were one of his priorities in his sketches of 1833. In this he returns close to a viewpoint of one of those, TB CCCXCVIII, 18a.
Photo courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-hirschgasse-d35231

Heidleberg Castle, Town and Bridge from the banks of the Neckar, upstream of the old bridge Photograph by David Hill taken 27 August 2015, 08.30 GMT
Heidleberg Castle, Town and Bridge from the banks of the Neckar, upstream of the old bridge
Photograph by David Hill taken 27 August 2015, 08.30 GMT

J M W Turner Heidelberg from upstream, late afternoon, 1844 Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35238; Turner Bequest CCCLII 18 as ‘Heidelberg from the Neckar Shore close to the Hirschgasse’. This sketch is the first of three that Turner made in 1844 recording the advance of sunset at intervals from viewpoints upstream of the castle and bridge. Finding a view from this aspect had been a priority for Turner on his first visit in 1833, and in this study he returned to close to the viewpoint of an earlier pencil sketch TB CCXCVIII 19. Here the sun appears to be shining towards us, more-or-less down the line of the river, which would set the time of day as in the late afternoon, but before the sun has sunk low enough to intensify the colour. Photo courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-neckar-shore-close-to-the-hirschgasse-d35238
J M W Turner
Heidelberg from upstream, late afternoon, 1844
Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm
From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35238; Turner Bequest CCCLII 18 as ‘Heidelberg from the Neckar Shore close to the Hirschgasse’.
This sketch is the first of three that Turner made in 1844 recording the advance of sunset at intervals from viewpoints upstream of the castle and bridge. Finding a view from this aspect had been a priority for Turner on his first visit in 1833, and in this study he returned to close to the viewpoint of an earlier pencil sketch TB CCXCVIII 19. Here the sun appears to be shining towards us, more-or-less down the line of the river, which would set the time of day as in the late afternoon, but before the sun has sunk low enough to intensify the colour.
Photo courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-neckar-shore-close-to-the-hirschgasse-d35238

Heidelberg from upstream Photograph by David Hill taken 27 August 2015, 9.05 GMT
Heidelberg from upstream
Photograph by David Hill taken 27 August 2015, 9.05 GMT

J M W Turner Heidelberg from upstream, sunset, 1844 Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35224; Turner Bequest CCCLII 5 as ‘Heidelberg from the Neckar Shore close to the Hirschgasse’. This sketch is the second of three that Turner made in 1844 recording the advance of sunset at intervals from viewpoints upstream of the castle and bridge. Here he is further upstream than in f.18 (above), and at a later hour, with the sun now setting, and casting its characteristic gold and red tones on the castle and its wooded slopes. Finding a view from this aspect had been a priority for Turner on his first visit in 1833, and in this study he returned to close to the viewpoint of an earlier pencil sketch TB CCXCVIII 22. Photo courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-neckar-shore-close-to-the-hirschgasse-d35224
J M W Turner
Heidelberg from upstream, sunset, 1844
Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm
From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35224; Turner Bequest CCCLII 5 as ‘Heidelberg from the Neckar Shore close to the Hirschgasse’.
This sketch is the second of three that Turner made in 1844 recording the advance of sunset at intervals from viewpoints upstream of the castle and bridge. Here he is further upstream than in f.18 (above), and at a later hour, with the sun now setting, and casting its characteristic gold and red tones on the castle and its wooded slopes. Finding a view from this aspect had been a priority for Turner on his first visit in 1833, and in this study he returned to close to the viewpoint of an earlier pencil sketch TB CCXCVIII 22.
Photo courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-from-the-neckar-shore-close-to-the-hirschgasse-d35224

J M W Turner Heidelberg from upstream, fading light, 1844 Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35233; Turner Bequest CCCLII 13 as ‘Heidelberg Castle from the Hirschgasse’. This sketch is the third of three that Turner made in 1844 recording the advance of sunset at intervals from viewpoints upstream of the castle and bridge. Here he is opposite the castle, with the Palais Weimar on the opposite bank, with the setting sun still lower, and the intensity of the colour on the castle now beginning to fade, and to have paled entirely at river level. Finding a view from this aspect had been a priority for Turner on his first visit in 1833, and in this study he returned to close to the viewpoint of an earlier pencil sketch, TB CCXCVIII 23a. Photo courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-castle-from-the-hirschgasse-d35233
J M W Turner
Heidelberg from upstream, fading light, 1844
Graphite and watercolour on paper, 229 x 329 mm
From the Heidelberg sketchbook, Tate, London, D35233; Turner Bequest CCCLII 13 as ‘Heidelberg Castle from the Hirschgasse’.
This sketch is the third of three that Turner made in 1844 recording the advance of sunset at intervals from viewpoints upstream of the castle and bridge. Here he is opposite the castle, with the Palais Weimar on the opposite bank, with the setting sun still lower, and the intensity of the colour on the castle now beginning to fade, and to have paled entirely at river level. Finding a view from this aspect had been a priority for Turner on his first visit in 1833, and in this study he returned to close to the viewpoint of an earlier pencil sketch, TB CCXCVIII 23a.
Photo courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-castle-from-the-hirschgasse-d35233

Heidelberg Castle and Palais Weimar Photograph by David Hill, Taken 27 August 2015, 8.27 GMT
Heidelberg Castle and Palais Weimar
Photograph by David Hill, Taken 27 August 2015, 8.27 GMT

As it transpired, Turner’s continental tour of 1844 was, apart from a short trip to the north French coast in 1845, his last. In his seventieth year something failed, and his mobility and his productivity were curtailed. Every year for the best part of the last twenty years, and at intervals before that, he had documented his travels and observations in extensive series of colour sketches. His studio cupboards and drawers must have been overflowing with them, thousands of coloured sheets, quite apart from the pencil sketches. Amongst them, it must have seemed as if he was simultaneously swept up in blizzard of the most intense and sublime experience, and at the same time irrecoverably alienated.

Part 5 key image

In the final part of this essay I will look at Turner’s last imaginings of Heidelberg. Before that, however, I have to give some thought to the work I am doing for Leeds Art Gallery in cataloguing their sketches by John Sell Cotman. I hope to post the final part of the present series sometime early in the New Year.

Supported by the Pilkington Anglo-Japanese Cultural Foundation

Logo

https://www.google.co.uk/#q=pilkington+anglo-japanese+cultural+foundation

In Turner’s Footsteps at Heidelberg: Part 3

This post continues the essay begun on 19 October 2015 and continued on 18 November 2015. In part #1, I followed in the footsteps of Turner’s comprehensive exploration of Heidelberg in 1833. In part #2, I looked at a major finished watercolour that he developed in the early 1840s, and a return visit to Heidelberg at the same time. Here, I begin to look at the deepening sublimity of his later treatments of the site.

Heidelberg Bridge, Castle and Church Photograph by David Hill taken 25 August 2015, 17 58 GMT
Heidelberg Bridge, Castle and Church
Photograph by David Hill taken 25 August 2015, 17 58 GMT

If we left Turner at the end of the part #2 picturing a crowd gathering at the approach of sunset at Heidelberg, his next step was to bear witness himself. Three watercolours survive, scattered in different collections, that have been discussed by scholars individually, and with some reference to each other, but never fully considered as a group, let alone reproduced or exhibited together. Side by side we can see that they are all taken from exactly the same spot but, more importantly that they form a continuous sequence recording two successive stages of the sun setting, and finally night falling and the moon rising.

Google Earth: Heidelberg Aerial View Showing viewpoint of three on-the-spot sketches, plus that of the 1841-2 watercolour. The identification of these subjects as Heidelberg has proved less than straightforward, but I feel convinced that Turner’s new viewpoint is a little further downstream, and slightly higher up, since the relation between the castle and church is consistent with a downstream viewpoint and the lantern of the spire of the Heiliggeistkirche is on a level with the top of the castle, suggesting a level forty or fifty feet above the river. This exact viewpoint is no longer accessible, being behind the houses on the Neuenheim Landstrasse, but it is not so very much higher than the road, and nowhere as high as the famous strolling route the Philosophenweg, which cuts across the slope here high above the river.  This image is best viewed at full-size. Click on the image to enlarge and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
Google Earth: Heidelberg Aerial View
Showing viewpoint of three on-the-spot sketches, plus that of the 1841-2 watercolour. The identification of these subjects as Heidelberg has proved less than straightforward, but I feel convinced that Turner’s new viewpoint is a little further downstream, and slightly higher up, since the relation between the castle and church is consistent with a downstream viewpoint and the lantern of the spire of the Heiliggeistkirche is on a level with the top of the castle, suggesting a level forty or fifty feet above the river. This exact viewpoint is no longer accessible, being behind the houses on the Neuenheim Landstrasse, but it is not so very much higher than the road, and nowhere as high as the famous strolling route the Philosophenweg, which cuts across the slope here high above the river.
This image is best viewed at full-size. Click on the image to enlarge and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.

J M W Turner Heidelberg Sunset Study #1, c.1841 Watercolour and pen and ink, on white paper, 233 x 290 mm, 8 3/4 x 11 1/2 ins Private Collection Image scanned from Andrew Wilton, ‘William Turner: Licht und Fabre’, catalogue of the exhibition at Essen and Zurich, 2001, where exhibited as no.171. This is the only time that it has been reproduced in colour.
J M W Turner
Heidelberg Sunset Study #1, c.1841
Watercolour and pen and ink, on white paper, 233 x 290 mm, 8 3/4 x 11 1/2 ins
Private Collection
Image scanned from Andrew Wilton, ‘William Turner: Licht und Fabre’, catalogue of the exhibition at Essen and Zurich, 2001, where exhibited as no.171. This is the only time that it has been reproduced in colour.

J M W Turner Heidelberg Sunset Study #2, c.1841  Watercolour and pen and ink on white paper, 236 x 295 mm, 9 1/4 x 11 5/8 ins  Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum.  (2284; Cormack 51) as ‘Heidelberg from the opposite bank of the Neckar'  Photograph courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum To view this image in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s own website, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/gallery/friends/exhibits/turner_heidelberg.htm
J M W Turner
Heidelberg Sunset Study #2, c.1841
Watercolour and pen and ink on white paper, 236 x 295 mm, 9 1/4 x 11 5/8 ins
Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum. (2284; Cormack 51) as ‘Heidelberg from the opposite bank of the Neckar’
Photograph courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum To view this image in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s own website, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/gallery/friends/exhibits/turner_heidelberg.htm

J M W Turner Heidelberg, Moonlight: Sample Study, c.1841 Watercolour on paper, 241 x 300 mm Tate, London, D36183, Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 325 This has hitherto be called a ‘sample study’ and described as ‘an intermediate stage between a sketch drawn from nature and a watercolour painted in the studio’.  Photograph courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-moonlight-sample-study-d36183
J M W Turner
Heidelberg, Moonlight: Sample Study, c.1841
Watercolour on paper, 241 x 300 mm
Tate, London, D36183, Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 325
This has hitherto be called a ‘sample study’ and described as ‘an intermediate stage between a sketch drawn from nature and a watercolour painted in the studio’.
Photograph courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-moonlight-sample-study-d36183

It has to be admitted that there are significant issues with the topography of these watercolours. The identification of the Fitzwilliam Museum study has long been controversial and Malcolm Cormack began his account of the watercolour in his 1975 catalogue of the Cambridge Turners [no.51] with the sentence: ‘The subject has been much disputed.’ Nor is the cause of certainty helped by the tower in the watercolour being identified there as that of the Jesuitkirche, since that tower was not built until 1868-72. Ian Warrell (Through Switzerland with Turner, Tate, 1995, p.151) describes the topography of in the group as ‘vague’ and Cecilia Powell in exhibiting the moonlight study in Turner and Germany, Tate, 1995, no.130, acknowledges that: ‘The topography here is far less easy to understand than in Turner’s other watercolour depictions of Heidelberg’ . Nonetheless she does establish a viewpoint on the Neuenheim shore, by making out the bridge amongst the indications to the left of the castle.

If these drawings do show Heidelberg, then the block to the left must be the castle and the tower to the right the Heiliggeistkirche, and the Neckar must occupy the lower middle distance. We can say for certain that all three watercolours show the same place, for the principal landmarks are the same, but the castle has none of the specific features of Heidelberg (it lacks the distinguishing feature of the octagonal tower, let alone the Renaissance gables of the Friedrich Building) and the church tower resembles the Heiliggeistkirche only in the respect that it has stages and a lantern on top. Nor are the distinctive bridge towers obvious in any of the watercolours, or, indeed, except by hints, the river.

So there is a case for caution, but what convinces me that they are indeed of Heidelberg is how faithful they are to the phenomenal character of the site. The really distinctive feature of Heidelberg from this aspect is the way in which the sun sets on the castle. As the light lifts from the river so it intensifies to a brilliant gold, and then red, playing over the purple-red sandstone of the buildings. Turner gives this in perfect succession: First in the private collection watercolour, with the light cool over the river, and slanting onto the tower of the church, castle and wooded slopes beyond; second, in the Fitzwilliam watercolour a few minutes later, with the light still more intense on the church and castle, but the light below sufficiently faded to allow the lights on the riverside to put forth; finally, in night falling. I had not anticipated this when planning my trip in August, but as it turned out there was one spectacular benefit in being there at the same time at Turner. With my camera on its tripod through the three-quarters of an hour that it took for the sun to set and grow dark, the moon suddenly popped out from behind the hill at the back of the town and stood directly above the Heiliggeistkirche, exactly as Turner shows in his final watercolour. I might well be admitting to terminal geekiness but this was genuinely thrilling, and convinced me that I was on the right spot!

Heidelberg Moonrise Photograph by David Hill taken 27 August 2015, 17.20 GMT
Heidelberg Moonrise
Photograph by David Hill taken 27 August 2015, 17.20 GMT

 

J M W Turner Heidelberg, Moonlight: Sample Study, c.1841 Watercolour on paper, 241 x 300 mm Tate, London, D36183, Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 325 It seems to me to that this must be a study from nature. The moon stood exactly in the same position when I was there on 27 August 2015 Photograph courtesy of Tate To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-moonlight-sample-study-d36183
J M W Turner
Heidelberg, Moonlight: Sample Study, c.1841
Watercolour on paper, 241 x 300 mm
Tate, London, D36183, Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 325
It seems to me to that this must be a study from nature. The moon stood exactly in the same position when I was there on 27 August 2015
Photograph courtesy of Tate
To view this image in Tate’s own catalogue of the Turner bequest, click on the following link, and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-heidelberg-moonlight-sample-study-d36183

It also convinced me that the watercolours were painted from immediate observation. I want to say on the spot, and whilst that may be so, it is not strictly necessary, his hotel was close by. In fact no matter where he was actually sitting to paint, it is clear that as much as he was painting from observation, he was not painting from immediate reference. If he was painting on the spot he was remarkably unconcerned about architectural particulars, so he does not seem to have been looking from paper to fact and back again.

I first discussed this in my Sublimesites.co article ‘Turner at Sisteron: The Pont du Buech’, posted on 9 May 2014. I ruminated there that painting ‘from nature’ is by no means so straightforward an activity as we might assume, even when it is being done from direct reference. One has to get on with the painting, and the subject in front of you can frequently seem to be more of a distraction than a source. I think we can be quite sure that Turner never allowed his source to become a constraint, and was certainly not interested in the commonplace stuff of ordinary vision. Most of the latter could be recorded in a line drawing, and quite rapidly. The only real justification for painting was to record the phenomena that line could not. Nuances of light, colour, effect, and the poetry of event and situation. It is as when painting he looked at a site – and after a lifetime’s practice and intensification of perceptual power, he assimilated his subjects as deeply and penetratingly as any artist that ever lived – more to understand the nature and features of its phenomena – and once assimilated he had no need to look again.

And that is exactly what we see here. The understanding of the phenomena is unerring. The rest is for satisfying more superficial concerns, and can be taken from the line drawings in the sketchbooks should it be required. That said, it is remarkable how much anecdotal detail is taking shape in these watercolours. There are figures coming up the path towards us in the Fitzwilliam watercolour, boys playing under the moonlight, and perhaps vines in the foreground of the private collection watercolour. In all the detail is in a process of being formed, as if the very substance of the site is animated and dynamic.

He had been experimenting with such active pictorial matrices since the earlier 1830s one early example is Staffa, Fingal’s Cave (USA, Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven) exhibited in 1832, and other examples e.g. Valley of Aosta: Snowstorm, Avalanche, and Thunderstorm (USA, Art Institute of Chicago) exhibited 1837 followed at intervals, culminating in 1842 with Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth (Tate N00530). Scholars have argued about Turner’s indistinctness and finish, but in the context of the Snow Storm, these sketches take their place in the mainstream indistinctness of Turner’s aesthetic development at this time.

In comparison with the Prior watercolour, we can certainly say that ‘finish’ such as he delivered consummately there, began to be supplanted by unfinish. By potential, as opposed to determination; animation as opposed to definition. It is significant that the first owner of the Prior watercolour was the great Turner collector Benjamin Godfrey Windus. He preferred exceptionally high-wrought things, and felt that Turner’s powers began to break up after 1842. He bought nothing that Turner produced after this, and would have hated these sketches. Ruskin, on the other hand thought that work of this kind was amongst the most magisterial that Turner ever produced.

Heidelberg Bridge, Castle and Church Photograph by David Hill, 25 August 2015, 17.56 GMT
Heidelberg Bridge, Castle and Church
Photograph by David Hill, 25 August 2015, 17.56 GMT

J M W Turner Heidelberg: Sunset, c.1842 Watercolour, 380 x 552 mm, 14 1/2 x 21 1/8 ins Manchester, City Art Gallery (1917.106) This watercolour seems to have been painted as a pair to that made for Thomas Abel Prior. Photo courtesy of Manchester City Art Gallery To view this image on Manchester City Art Gallery’s website click on the following link and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page. http://manchesterartgallery.org/collections/search/collection/?id=1917.106
J M W Turner
Heidelberg: Sunset, c.1842
Watercolour, 380 x 552 mm, 14 1/2 x 21 1/8 ins
Manchester, City Art Gallery (1917.106)
This watercolour seems to have been painted as a pair to that made for Thomas Abel Prior.
Photo courtesy of Manchester City Art Gallery
To view this image on Manchester City Art Gallery’s website click on the following link and use your browser’s ‘back’ button to return to this page.
http://manchesterartgallery.org/collections/search/collection/?id=1917.106

About this time Turner made a second large watercolour, Heidelberg: Sunset (Manchester City Art Gallery) from the same viewpoint as the Prior watercolour. It is every bit as highly wrought as that made for Prior, but the tone is altogether more profound. Eric Shanes in his notes to the catalogue of the exhibition Turner: The Great Watercolours, RA 2000, nos. 102, 103, argues that the Manchester watercolour might have been painted as a pendant to Prior’s. He is wrong to see them as contrasting morning and evening, for Prior’s watercolour shows afternoon, but obviously right in general principal, in that one sets the scene in full fresh daylight, and the other on the border between day and night.

View these images in a gallery. Click on any image to enlarge, read captions and scroll forwards or backwards. Click the close button to return to the main page.

Nothing is known about the circumstances of Turner making the Manchester watercolour, but in stylistic terms it is full of exquisitely made out and well-resolved detail – though perhaps less crowded than is Prior’s – and might well have been made pretty much at the same time. Between them the two watercolours have the character of watercolours known to have been made in 1842 as the first batch of commissions elicited through a series of ‘sample studies’ that Turner left with his dealer Thomas Griffith of Norwood. Compare, for example the Lucerne Town and Walls (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Merseyside) with Prior’s watercolour and The Dark Rigi (Private Collection) with the Manchester watercolour. It might be that the Manchester watercolour was offered through Griffith as an example of what the sample studies might become. The story of the sample studies and their commissions is told by Ian Warrell in Through Switzerland with Turner, (Tate 1995). In the context of Heidelberg it is worth mentioning that Warrell sees similarities between the three colour sketches discussed above and those known to have been produced to show through Griffith early in 1842, and that the series, although referred to as Swiss, is not exclusively so. There was at least one German subject amongst them, Coblenz (Cincinnati Art Museum).

So if the Manchester watercolour may be seen to sit between the Prior watercolour and the first finished productions of the sample studies commissions, then it might also be seen as the direct product of the colour studies treated above. And indeed it may be seen to synthesise all three in terms of phenomenon. The sun lifting from the river draws on the Private Collection and Fitzwilliam studies, and the idea of moonlight rising above the hillside from the Tate study, albeit shifted somewhat to the left.

It is not altogether clear that the moon can ever in fact put in an appearance quite as shown in the watercolour. It is placed here almost due east, and might rise in this position in September or October, but I have not been able to verify that. Perhaps one of the regular joggers or walkers along the Neuenheim Landstrasse could let us know?? One effect that Turner did make great play of in the watercolour can, however be verified. The very definite line of shadow that sweeps up from the bridge diagonally across the castle slopes, cast by the sun dipping below the shoulder of the hill behind us (the Michaelsberg) is exactly as recorded in the Private collection sketch, and exactly as witnessed on 25 August 2015.

View these images in a gallery. Click on any image to enlarge, read captions and scroll forwards or backwards. Click the close button to return to the main page.

The two watercolours to work in tandem as successive stages of the same event. The similarity of the figures invites us to make that connection. And Turner is quite specific about the times of day: If we take the tower of the Heiliggeistkirche to mark west, it is apparent in the Prior watercolour – still more so in the colour-beginning– that the sun is still to the south of west, setting the time as late afternoon. In the Manchester watercolour it is clearly setting to the north of west, as it does in summer. It moves through due west, more-or-less, at the autumn equinox, 21 September.

View these images in a gallery. Click on any image to enlarge, read captions and scroll forwards or backwards. Click the close button to return to the main page.

So the major theme is advancing time, and of advancing night. After 1842 Turner’s whole outlook darkened, and the shift is marked precisely in the transition between these two treatments of Heidelberg. There are telling details in the contrast. There are trees to the left of the Prior watercolour, and the hillsides are clothed in green. The trees are gone in the Manchester picture and there is no hint of green. The architecture is becoming attenuated, the bridge lighter than any German river bridge can be, the church tower taller and thinner, the castle towers and walls loftier, than any structure that will withstand. This is altogether a more serious mood, any frivolity that the Prior watercolour possesses is extracted here. Perhaps the whole difference might be summed up in one detail; At the bottom left hand corner of the Manchester watercolour a woman ushers two small children away. The daylight world of Prior’s picture might have been an appropriate playground for them but the oncoming sublime will be altogether too terrible.

 

Manchester detail

 

And this presents another good place for a break. In the next I will discuss Turner’s last visit to Heidelberg in 1844 and the superb colour studies made on that occasion. And after that his very last treatments in oil and watercolour. Anon. D.V.

Moonight reflection

Supported by the Pilkington Anglo-Japanese Cultural Foundation
Logo
http://www.pilkingtonanglo-japaneseculturalfoundation.org/