J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Northern Italy or Switzerland: Possible Subjects c.1828–44

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The subjects of the drawings in this section, mostly very rapid and slight mountain views with occasional buildings, are presently unidentified but, while awaiting further research, they appear to be of Northern Italian or Swiss Alpine scenes from the 1828–9 Italian tour or later, and have been dated here between about then and 1844, the year of Turner’s last Swiss tour. The artist had first set foot in Italy as early as 1802, albeit as a brief extension to his momentous first encounter with the Swiss Alps, but his first prolonged tour was in 1819–20, and there were later visits to the north of the country involving journeys through central Europe in 1833, 1836, possibly 1837, 1840, 1842 and 1843. 1836 also saw travels in Switzerland, and between 1841 and 1844 he made productive annual summer visits there. By the late 1820s Turner often complemented his touring work in sketchbooks with sheaves of small pieces of paper torn methodically from larger sheets. The present drawings may prove to relate to one or ...
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D34503, D34562–D34568, D34577–D34581, D34586–D34589, D34596, D34597, D34602, D34620–D34623, D34625, D34626, D34698, D34699, D34755–D34766
Turner Bequest CCCXLIV 140, 179–182v, 187–189, 192–193v, 197, 197v, 200, 210–211v, 213, 213v, 254, 255, 304–309v
The subjects of the drawings in this section, mostly very rapid and slight mountain views with occasional buildings, are presently unidentified but, while awaiting further research, they appear to be of Northern Italian or Swiss Alpine scenes from the 1828–9 Italian tour or later, and have been dated here between about then and 1844, the year of Turner’s last Swiss tour. The artist had first set foot in Italy as early as 1802, albeit as a brief extension to his momentous first encounter with the Swiss Alps, but his first prolonged tour was in 1819–20, and there were later visits to the north of the country involving journeys through central Europe in 1833, 1836, possibly 1837, 1840, 1842 and 1843. 1836 also saw travels in Switzerland, and between 1841 and 1844 he made productive annual summer visits there.
By the late 1820s Turner often complemented his touring work in sketchbooks with sheaves of small pieces of paper torn methodically from larger sheets. The present drawings may prove to relate to one or more of the 1840s tours, being in general more casual and loosely worked than earlier topographical studies. Many of the mountain scenes were probably recorded hastily while in transit; a few have scrawled place names, but they are generally of little assistance for identifications. The all come from the extensive section CCCXLIV of Finberg’s 1909 Inventory, dated around 1830–41: ‘Miscellaneous: Black and White. | (d) White paper.’1 Finberg made no general comment on its highly miscellaneous 458 numbered items, except to remark that some were ‘folded into panels’,2 as they remain, with each face with a drawing having a separate Tate ‘D’ number. The relationships between different parts of the same sheet are expressed in the individual technical notes. A few have been more precisely dated, to 1840 or later, owing to the presence of 1837 watermarks.
As many of the works have attracted little scholarly attention since Finberg’s time, the present selection was compiled mainly through a process of visual topographical analysis;3 meanwhile, research including consultation of the relatively sparse literature on the late pencil drawings showed other similar works to belong specifically to the Switzerland-centred annual tours of 1841–4, yet to be addressed in the present catalogue at time of writing. Those which remain here represent an interim grouping in the expectation that their presentation as such may facilitate further identifications and clarification of their subjects and dating. See also the present author’s complementary section of mountain, urban and coastal ‘Italy: Identified or Likely Subjects Not Linked to Particular Tours’, dated to about 1828–43; in due course there may prove to be connections or cross-overs with the works there.
1
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.II, p.1109.
2
Ibid.
3
The author is very grateful to fellow Tate Turner cataloguers Alice Rylance-Watson and John Chu for intensive discussions in late October 2014, when the contents of the sections of separate sheets then remaining to be catalogued were largely drawn up.

Matthew Imms
February 2016

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Northern Italy or Switzerland: Possible Subjects c.1828–44’, February 2016, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, November 2016, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/northern-italy-or-switzerland-possible-subjects-r1183047, accessed 20 January 2018.