Saturday, June 21, 2014
Over the course of his career J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) worked up a great many of these detailed vignettes in gouache and watercolor, basing them on earlier sketches made during his annual summer travels. The vignettes were turned over to professional print-makers who used them as the basis for mass-produced black and white books of views - a strategy for extending Turner's market from the rich aristocrats and burghers who bought his oil paintings to the far more numerous members of the middle classes.
Above, Turner's vignette of the ruined Château Gaillard on a cliff above the town of Les Andelys in France. In his gouache Turner included the imaginary figure of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) the famous painter of an earlier age who spent almost all his working life in Rome, but who was born in the little town of Les Andelys and grew up under the looming ruin of Château Gaillard.
Below, a vignette of the ruined castle from an alternate angle, along with the resulting monochrome intaglio print, published in 1835.
Two of Turner's original ink sketches (on blue-gray paper) preserve immediate impressions of Les Andelys. In the first, washerwomen occupy the waterside in the foreground, where Turner will later substitute the figure of Poussin and his drawing board. The second ink sketch shows the town square laid out in front of the church, with ancient castle above and behind.
Many of Turner's vignettes are preserved at the Tate in London, along with the corresponding engravings and other prints which contributed substantially to the artist's large fortune. At the time of his death in 1851 Turner mandated that most of the money he left should be used to support alms houses for indigent painters, but his wishes were never enacted.