Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Lower Glacier, Grindelwald, with the Eiger

1802

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Chalk, gouache and graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 210 x 282 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D04537
Turner Bequest LXXIV 44

Catalogue entry

Turner’s label for this drawing is inscribed ‘Les Glaces de Grindelwald’. Rather than drawn on the spot, the view of the glacier and surrounding forests below the Eiger seems to have been worked up from a sketch, inscribed ‘Grin’, in the Rhine, Strassburg and Oxford sketchbook (Tate D04768; Turner Bequest LXXVII 29) also used in 1802. John Russell and Andrew Wilton remark its ‘virtuoso mastery of the monochrome medium’1 with dampened black chalk used to set out the darker passages. The dead tree stumps in the foreground are not present in the first sketch, and are added here to give drama and a bleak sublimity to the scene. Despite this emphasis, no more finished version of the subject is known. David Hill has suggested that Turner was ‘slightly overwhelmed’ by the scenery of Grindelwald.2
Writing of this drawing in the catalogue for Marlborough House, where it was displayed with Fallen Trees... from the same sketchbook (D04531; Turner Bequest LXXIV 38), John Ruskin observed that the glaciers were ‘out of their place in our tour; but it well that we should see them, and the shattered trunks beneath’ as an antidote to the ‘meek classicism’ of subjects in the Val d’Aosta exhibited from the same source; ‘No hope of taming the Alps, or softening them, in these.’ He continued: ‘I cannot make out, in the sketch of Grindelwald, where [Turner] has got to in the valley, or whether he means the upper white peaks for Alp or glacier. If he intends them for Alp, they are exaggerated, – if for ice, I do not understand how he has got pines to come between the two masses.’3
1
Russell and Wilton 1976, p.57.
2
Hill 1992, p.118.
3
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.264; Ruskin on Pictures; Cook 1902, p.225.
Verso:
Blank, inscribed perhaps by a later hand in pencil ‘21’

David Blayney Brown
September 2011

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