Joseph Mallord William Turner

Mill near the Grand Chartreuse

c.1812–15

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 232 x 342 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Reference
D08156
Turner Bequest CXVIII B

Catalogue entry

Provenance:
...
?Henry Dawe
...
Henry Vaughan by 1872
Engraved:
Etching (attributed) and mezzotint by Henry Dawe, ‘Mill, near the Grand Chartreuse; – Dauphiny.’, published Turner, 1 January 1816
There seems to be no direct precedent for Turner’s Liber Studiorum design surviving among the sketches made of the valley of the Grande Chartreuse, in the French Alps north of Grenoble, on his first visit to the mountains in 1802. Several tonal studies in the Grenoble ‘sketchbook’ show craggy, wooded scenes in the area, and the Liber composition may have developed from various elements recorded there (Tate D04520, D04523, D04524, D04526, D04529, D04531; Turner Bequest LXXIV 27, 30, 31, 33, 36, 38).
The English poet Thomas Gray had written vividly of his 1739 visit to the area, ‘one of the most romantic, and most astonishing scenes I ever beheld’, as had William Wordsworth in his 1793 Descriptive Sketches, with the ‘death-like peace’ of the woods ‘Broke only by th’unvaried torrent’s sound.’1 Andrew Wilton has noted the site’s ‘central place in the consciousness of early searchers for the sublime among the Alps’,2 prompting Adele Holcomb’s observations on Turner’s ‘equipoise of grandeur and intimacy ... in a design that balances openness and containment.’3 Ruskin admired the ‘confined and gloomy’ aspect of the composition as an example of Turner’s ‘magnificent power of elaborating close foliage’,4 and also praised the implicit sense of height and depth of the ‘sublime’ scene,5 which he saw as being (to its advantage) in the tradition of Titian rather than Claude.6 He placed the subject among those symptomatic of the Liber’s perceived focus on ‘decay and humiliation’ and ‘patient striving with hard conditions’:
And last and chief, the mill in the valley of the Chartreuse. Another than Turner would have painted the convent; but he had no sympathy with the hope, no mercy for the indolence of the monk. He painted the mill in the valley. Precipice overhanging it, and wildness of dark forest round; blind rage and strength of mountain torrent rolled beneath it, – calm sunset above, but fading from the glen, leaving it to its roar of passionate waters and sighing of pine-branches in the night.7
1
Quoted in David Hill, Turner in the Alps: The Journey through France & Switzerland in 1802, London 1992, pp.[33], 38 respectively.
2
Wilton 1980, p.31.
3
Holcomb 1983, p.52.
4
Cook and Wedderburn III 1903, pp.586, 595 note.
5
Ibid., VI 1904, p.316.
6
Ibid., V 1904, p.399
7
Ibid., VII 1903, pp.432, 433.
8
Brooke 1885, p.180.
9
Rawlinson 1878, pp.107–15; 1906, pp.125–36; Finberg 1924, pp.205–24.
10
Ibid.: 1878, p.197; 1906, p.232; 1924, p.216.
11
Hardie 1938, p.49 no.9.
12
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986 – 88, London 1996, p.71.
13
Forrester 1996, p.115.
14
[Taylor and Vaughan] 1872, p.38.
1
Ibid., pp.15, 24 note 82 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8); see also Bower, Tate Conservation files.
2
Ibid., p.115 (analysis by Bower, as noted above); Bower, Tate conservation files.
3
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files, with slides of details.
4
Forrester 1996, p.122.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

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