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Joseph Mallord William Turner

This superb painting by JMW Turner is probably the finest work on paper in Bury’s collection. It is the ‘star’ watercolour in the Wrigley Gift and an excellent example of the artist’s late manner. JMW Turner is generally accepted to have been the most important British painter of the 19th century whose high reputation has remained undimmed since his death in 1851.

This foreign view by Turner was probably painted in 1832 and shows Ehrenbreitstein, a ruined fortress on the River Rhine near Coblenz.

The scene is bathed in a warm light; there are touches of bright, dry pigment everywhere and the shadows are transparent and coloured, not just a darker version of the local colour. The effect of all this is to turn an otherwise straightforward view into a golden vision of the place. Much of the landscape is implied rather than clearly stated and we can clearly see the physical evidence of Turner’s adjustments.

The double-headed eagle on the Prussian flag fluttering from the stern of the golden barge on the right is the only reminder in this otherwise tranquil scene of a difficult and violent era, although the Battle of Waterloo, which ended the Napoleonic Wars that had interrupted Turner’s journeys around Europe, was seventeen years distant by the time he came to paint this halcyon view.