Technique and condition
The composition was begun with light graphite pencil sketching of the mountain tops and the more distant trees, on white wove Whatman paper that had previously been lightly washed all over to give a pale greyish buff background. The warm brown wash that defines the whole of the landscape was probably applied next, to paper that was more than damp, in fact quite wet. This in effect created the sky as a reserved area of buff-washed paper, with clouds very summarily indicated with the same brown wash, to break up what would otherwise be a blank in the upper two-thirds of the paper. To the right of the sky, some of the brown wash more resembles water damage than rapid application of paint. If the sketches in this group were indeed done outdoors, limp and damp paper and adventitious water damage from dripping trees would not be unexpected, and the group may be a very practical response to typical weather conditions in the western side of Scotland, which are hardly conducive to the application of dry, hard-edged washes. Turner always tended to utilise accidental variation in paper absorbency if he could, and splashes of rain would have the same effect as repeated applications of watercolour wash: the glue-sized paper would be left a little more absorbent each time.
Graphite pencil provides significant colour to the composition, since it has been applied as shading applied rapidly with Turner’s right hand, to create the vegetation in the foreground, to give form to the nearer tree trunks, and to give more shape and definition to the more distant trees. A soft, blunt pencil such as this would 'take' easily to both damp and dry paper. Pale washes of yellow ochre shade were used for the mountain on the extreme right, and to add detail to some of the areas in the middle distance not previously given form by the warm brown wash. The golden yellow highlights could have been applied with the same material, to judge by their present colour. However, a related work Study of a Rocky Cliff (Tate D03437; Turner Bequest LVIII 58) was found to have unusually darkened highlights in Indian yellow, the change being attributable to light exposure. This may be the same material. In either case, such a limited range of materials is very practical, in terms of carrying and using them outdoors.
The composition is apparently taken from a view in the 1801 Tummel Bridge sketchbook (Tate D03372–D03373; Turner Bequest LVII 65a–66), where the trees are, however, indicated with bare branches. If Glen Almond is the location the trees are likely to be alders, which are characteristic of the place.
The sheet is faded from exposure.