Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Source of the Arveron

c.1812–15

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 221 x 314 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Reference
D08161
Turner Bequest CXVIII G

Catalogue entry

Provenance:
...
John Dillon
...
John Heugh by 1872, sold Christie’s, London, 24 April 1874 (84), £189
Bought by Colnaghi
...
Henry Vaughan by 1878
Engraved:
Etching and mezzotint by Henry Dawe (attributed) and Turner, ‘The Source of the Arveron in the Valley of Chamouni Savoy.’, published Turner, 1 January 1816
Turner recorded this French site in 1802, early on his journey through the Alps during his first Continental tour. The Arveyron rises from the foot of the Glacier du Bois below the Mer de Glace near Chamonix, and is a tributary of the Arve, which Turner had earlier recorded at Bonneville, also featuring in the Liber Studiorum (see Tate D08164; Turner Bequest CXVIII J). Both are among several Liber designs based on sketches in the St Gothard and Mont Blanc sketchbook (see also Tate D08123, D08153; Turner Bequest CXVI V, CXVII Y; and Tate N03631; in addition, Mer de Glace1 may have been etched directly from another page in the book).
There is a pencil sketch of the view, heightened with white chalk, in the St Gothard and Mont Blanc sketchbook (Tate D04612; Turner Bequest LXXV 20), and larger studies from various angles (Tate D04880, D04881, D04886, D04887; Turner Bequest LXXIX F, G, L, M), the third of which relates to the current composition. Turner exhibited a watercolour of the scene, generally identified as the large Glacier and Source of the Arveron, Going Up to the Mer de Glace, at the Royal Academy in 1803 (396) (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven)2 which includes a herd of goats and prominent, blasted trees to the full height of the left foreground. However, Eric Shanes has proposed that the titles and thus the dates of the latter work, a smaller variation (Taft Museum, Cincinnati, 1931.389)3 and other Alpine views in Walter Fawkes’s collection by 1819 have since been confused and transposed, and that the Yale work was not the 1803 exhibit and should be redated to about 1814, making it contemporaneous with the Liber drawing.4 Elsewhere, it has also been suggested that a smaller ‘second version’ of about 1808, untraced since 1869, could have been a more direct source.5
1
Rawlinson 1878, pp.103–4 no.50; 1906, pp.121–2 no.50; Finberg 1924, pp.197–200 no.50.
2
Wilton 1979, p.341 no.365, reproduced p.93 pl.90 (colour).
3
Ibid., 1979, p.344 no.389, reproduced.
4
Eric Shanes, ‘Identifying Turner’s Chamonix water-colours’, Burlington Magazine, vol.142, November 2000, pp.687–94; see Wilton 1980, p.121 for discussion of sequence as traditionally understood.
5
Wilton 1979, p.343 no.383.
6
Cook and Wedderburn 1903, pp.236–7.
7
Ibid., Volume VII: Modern Painters: Volume V..., London 1903, p.105
8
Forrester 1996, p.162 (list transcribed; but title of current composition omitted in error).
9
Finberg 1924, p.239; see also p.lii; Forrester 1996, p.122.
10
Rawlinson 1878, pp.116–25; 1906, pp.137–47; Finberg 1924, pp.225–44.
11
Ibid.: 1878, p.197; 1906, p.232; 1924, p.240.
12
Hardie 1938, p.50 no.11.
13
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986 – 88, London 1996, p.72.
14
Forrester 1996, p.122.
15
[Taylor and Vaughan] 1872, pp.41, [54].
16
Forrester 1996, p.122.
17
Rawlinson 1878, p.121.
18
Smiles 2007, p.182.
1
Forrester 1996, pp.15, 24 note 82, 122 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8); see also Bower, Tate conservation files.
2
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
3
Forrester 1996, p.122.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

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