Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Ravine in the Pass of St Gotthard


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache, graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 327 × 486 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXV 35

Display caption

Turner made many dozens of sketches
of the dramatic and sometimes hostile Alpine scenery during his 1802 tour of Switzerland. This view of a deep gorge, one side drenched in sunlight and the other plunged into darkness, was made on grey tinted paper.


The initial pencil work, visible underneath the layers of paint, is vigorous, almost violent. Vivid layers of gouache have been used to convey the density and wildness of the mountainous landscape. Turner
has created highlights by physically scratching through the pigment to
the white paper below.


Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

For Turner’s visit to the St Gotthard Pass and Reuss Gorge in 1802 see Introduction to the sketchbook and notes to D04628; Turner Bequest LXXV 36. This dramatic and expressive study, richly coloured, was particularly admired by John Ruskin. In manuscript notes made in 1880 on Turner’s drawings of the St Gotthard, he described it as ‘the great one.’1 Ruskin recommended it for copying and there is a copy of it by Isabella Lee Jay (fl. 1882–1896) in the Ruskin Galleries, Bembridge, Isle of Wight. Although Ruskin did not own any of her works himself, he considered her copies after Turner ‘the most accurate and beautiful I have yet seen, in many respects attaining fully to the expression of the master’s most subtle qualities’2 and commissioned one by her after Thomas Matthews Rooke (1842–1942) for the Guild of St George, Sheffield.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.371.
Ibid., p.578.
Inscribed by a later hand in pencil ‘11’ within a circle

David Blayney Brown
October 2011

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