Luxembourg City from the Côte d'Eich

around 1839 - 1840 | 2nd quarter 19th centuryWatercolour on paperH x L : 14 x 19 cm

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), the most famous of the English romantic landscape painters, visited Luxembourg for the first time in 1839. Under the sceptical watch of the Prussian command, who suspected him of being an English spy, he sketched the surroundings of the fortress.

The first watercolour shows Luxembourg from the Fetschenhof. Altogether, Turner created three landscapes with the same viewpoint. The MNHA’s watercolour, which is embellished with gouache, is the most accomplished and the most complete of the three. Turner also created several versions of the second watercolour, View of Luxembourg from the Côte d’Eich. Both views date from the time of Turner’s second stay in Luxembourg. They were probably not painted until the artist’s return to his studio that is to say in the autumn of 1839 at the earliest. Indeed, during his journeys Turner used very little colour and worked almost exclusively with pencil. The sketchbook he used during his travel contains some thirty similar views of Luxembourg and its fortress.

Back in his studio, he painted his watercolours in series corresponding to the various places he had visited, attributing specific subjects and colours to each of the series. For the twenty-odd watercolours of Luxembourg that are known today, all of them executed on small sheets (14 x 19 cm) of dark blue vaz paper, the fortress and the rocks are rendered mainly in tones of red, pink, yellow and ochre.

The views kept at the MNHA are a testament to the artist’s absolute mastery of the distribution of light and his focus on the atmosphere of a precise moment, taken to the limits of abstraction. His free touch, very controversial at the time, enthralled the impressionist a generation later and males Turner today one of the most important figures in art history.


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