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Dramatic Alpine scenes were a stock feature of Sublime landscape. Though Turner had visited the Alps in 1802, there is no evidence that he visited the area represented in this picture, or that he actually witnessed an avalanche. Instead, the stimulus for creating this scene may have been reports of an avalanche that occurred at Selva in the Grisons in December 1808, killing twenty-five people. Yet far from attempting reportage, Turner creates an almost abstract scene of overwhelming elemental forces.

September 2004