Joseph Mallord William Turner

Bonneville and the River Arve from the Geneva Road, Looking East


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite, watercolour and gouache on paper
Support: 314 × 472 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXV 7

Catalogue entry

For travellers of Turner’s generation coming from northern Europe, Bonneville was a major staging post on an Alpine tour and provided some of their first impressions of mountain grandeur. As well as sketches in his France, Savoy, Piedmont sketchbook (Tate D04440–D04443; Turner Bequest LXXIII 46–48) Turner made this larger, coloured study from the Geneva road, downstream on the River Arve, looking eastwards to the town and bridge of Bonneville with Mont Blanc in the distance. Classically composed and pastoral in character,1 it proved to be one of the most productive of all the drawings he brought back from his 1802 tour.
He listed ‘Bonneville. done’ among subjects commissioned or in hand, at the front of his album of 1802 dawings (see Technical notes to the Grenoble sketchbook, Tate, Turner Bequest LXXIV)
Turner showed two paintings, Bonneville, Savoy, with Mont Blanc and Châteaux de St Michael, Bonneville, Savoy at the Royal Academy in 1803. The pictures (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut and Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas) have often been confused and in a lecture in 1977 and subsequently in print, Andrew Wilton reversed the identifications and provenances tentatively given by Butlin and Joll.2 The Dallas picture, which following Wilton’s logic must be the one bought by the banker Samuel Dobree, is closest to the present drawing. The composition was repeated in another version shown in 1812 (Philadelphia Museum of Art)3 as well as two finished watercolours, one for Walter Fawkes (on the London art market in 2007)4 and another for Sir John or Edward Swinburne (British Museum, London).5 The Liber Studiorum plate Bonneville, Savoy also descends from this view although it is closest to the 1812 picture; Forrester considers it ‘uncertain’ whether Turner’s study for the plate (Tate D08164; Turner Bequest CXVIII J) anticipates or postdates the later oil.6
A drawing of a slightly different view of Bonneville with the road prominent in the left foreground and castle towers on the right (Courtauld Gallery, London) was long thought to have originated in this sketchbook, but has been found by Peter Bower to be on a different paper also used in 1802.7 It served as the basis of the Yale picture and led via a colour study (Tate D04901; Turner Bequest LXXX H) to a finished watercolour (private collection).8 Doubts might arise as to the origin of another view of Bonneville associated with this sketchbook (British Museum, London)9 as it has no visible watermark. The composition was repeated in a picture for Fawkes (currently untraced).10
‘...lyrique et pastoral plutôt que d’une majesté écrasante...’; Wilton in Gage, Ziff, Alfrey 1983, p.178.
Andrew Wilton, ‘Turner at Bonneville’, in John Wilmerding (ed.), Essays in Honor of Paul Mellon, New Haven 1986, pp.402–27; Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.35–6 no.46, pp.39–40 no.50.
Ibid., pp.87–8 no.124 (pl.57).
Sotheby’s sale, London, 4 July 2007, lot 13; Wilton 1979, p.343 no.381.
Ibid., p.343 no.385.
Forrester 1996, p.126.
Joanna Selborne, Andrew Wilton and Cecilia Powell, Paths to Fame: Turner Watercolours from The Courtauld Collection, exhibition catalogue, Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere 2008, pp.68–73.
Wilton 1979, p. no.400.
Ibid., p. no.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.112 no.148 (pl.153).

David Blayney Brown
October 2011

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