PROPERTY FROM AN AMERICAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
by James Tibbetts Willmore, 1832, for Heath's Annual Tour - The Loire, 1833
Turner visited the River Loire in 1826 as part of an extensive sketching tour of northern France. He left London at the end of August and, after journeying through remote parts of Normandy, he reached the great river, at Nantes, by the end of September. He proceeded to spend the next week or so travelling upstream by boat, stage-coach and on foot. Chateau de Clermont is located only about twenty kilometres to the east of Nantes and, as such, the castle would have been one of the first major points of interest on the route. Turner responded by executing a number of hurriedly complicated pencil sketches, as he floated by.1
He continued on, past the riverside towns of Angers, Tours, Amboise and Blois, until he reached Orléans. From there, he left the river and headed north to Calais, by way of Paris. By the time he arrived back in London, at the end of October, he had filled three sketch-books with material that would fire his imagination for a number of important projects.
The present work dates to circa 1828-30 and was engraved in 1832 by James Tibbetts Willmore (1800-1865) for Charles Heath’s celebrated publication: Turner’s Annual Tour: ‘Wanderings by the Loire’. In total, Turner painted twenty-one views of the great river for this ground-breaking volume and his images were accompanied by text by the popular travel writer Leitch Ritchie (1800-1865).
The project was critically acclaimed and Turner’s watercolours were praised for their ‘poetic effects’.2 Ritchie himself expressed his admiration when he wrote that ‘Turner was in his element with the Loire views… they will be identified at a single glance [with the originals] by all who can feel genius, and who are capable of seeing in nature something beyond its outward and tangible forms.’3
The present work has an interesting and distinguished provenance. Having remained with Turner’s agent, Thomas Griffith until May 1850, it was then sold, along with twenty-one other Loire drawings, to Charles Stokes, a stock-broker and loyal patron of Turner’s. The picture was not in Stokes’ collection upon his death in 1853 and only resurfaced when it was sold at Christie’s in 1920. The work was acquired by the grandfather of the present owners at around this time and has only appeared once in public since then, at the Tate Britain’s seminal exhibition of 1997: Turner on the Loire.
Of the twenty-one watercolours that were eventually engraved for Turner's series of Loire views, the present work is the only example that remains outside a museum collection. The majority are at the Ashmolean in Oxford, but others can be found at the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven and the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. We would like to thank Ian Warrell for his help when cataloguing this work.
1. Turner Bequest, Tate, Britain CCXLVIII f. 10
2. I. Warrell, lit. op. cit., p. 26
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