Joseph Mallord William Turner

Blair’s Hut on the Montenvers


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite, watercolour and gouache on paper
Support: 314 × 468 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXV 22

Catalogue entry

Turner’s label for this drawing reads ‘Mer de Glace, le Cabin de Blair, Aiguile du Rouge’ [sic].
Blair’s hut or the ‘Cabin’ or ‘Château de Blair’ was built in 1779 by Charles Blair, an Englishman living in Geneva, as a viewing station on the Montenvers. A simple wooden structure with the motto ‘Utile Dulci’ above the door, it commanded a view of the Mer de Glace. Turner and his travelling companion Newbey Lowson must have been taken there by a guide and the artist climbed down to the glacier itself to make his drawing. Cracked ice occupies the foreground and the hut is glimpsed on pine-clad slopes in the left distance. Behind are the Aiguilles Rouges and the Col des Montets. Even if added afterwards over a quick outline done on the spot, the broad washes of watercolour and highlights of white gouache are powerfully expressive of the bleak grandeur of the scenery and of overcast weather. Turner made a finished watercolour of this subject, Mer de Glace, Blair’s Hut, for Walter Fawkes whose initial ‘F’ is marked on the label. The watercolour (Courtauld Gallery, London)1 may have been shown at Turner’s Gallery in 1806 but, according to Eric Shanes, could date from as early as 1803.2
Wilton 1979, p.342 no.371.
Eric Shanes, ‘Identifying Turner’s Chamonix water-colours’, The Burlington Magazine, vol.142 no.1172, November 2000, p.694 notes 38, 39.
Inscribed by a later hand in pencil ‘2’ within a circle

David Blayney Brown
November 2011

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