Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Mer de Glace, Looking up to the Aiguille de Tacul

1802

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite, chalk, watercolour, and gouache on paper
Dimensions
Support: 314 x 465 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D04615
Turner Bequest LXXV 23

Catalogue entry

Described by John Russell and Andrew Wilton as ‘one of the most austere of all Turner’s drawings of the Alps’,1 this view of the Mer de Glace looking up to Aiguille de Tacul seems never to have been adopted for a finished watercolour. Instead it served as the basis of the Liber Studiorum plate Mer de Glace –Valley of Chamouni – Savoy. Since, unusually, no intermediate study for this plate is known it would appear that Turner worked directly from the present drawing. The plate, which he etched and engraved himself, is notably direct, retaining the spontaneity and raw power of the on-the-spot drawing. In his book Modern Painters, John Ruskin singled it out as an example of Turner’s exceptional understanding of mountain geology while in 1880, in more idiosyncratic notes on Turner’s Swiss drawings, he thought the artist was ‘trying to make [the ice] look like sea’.2
1
Russell and Wilton 1976, p.48.
2
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.371 note 1.
Verso:
Blank
Inscribed ?by Turner in pencil ‘down Montanvert... Chamoni’ and by a later hand in pencil ‘6’

David Blayney Brown
November 2011

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