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With Napoleon's defeat in 1815, English artists crossed the Channel for the first time in twenty years. In 1817, Turner visited the battlefield of Waterloo and continued on to Cologne. From there, he walked south and sketched along the Rhine the 100 miles to Mainz.
On the evening of the second day, he rounded the bend beneath St. Martin's Chapel and made a panoramic sketch of the towns of Remagen, Erpel and Linz. Presumably in his hotel that night, he began this watercolor.