Frist Center for the Visual Arts (Nashville, USA): The Sea and the Alps: Turner's Quest for the Sublime
In this dramatically lit impressionistic drawing, Turner pictures the ruins of the Burg Treis overlooking the Moselle valley in Germany. The gaunt remains of the castle stand solitary and exposed atop a pinnacle surrounded by vertiginous peaks. Diagonal slashing strokes of mauve and teal wash suggest a swirling wind and a fast-moving mist rising from the river below. A shaft of orange gouache, representing rays of sunlight, cuts through these sombre tones and casts a warm light onto the tower of the castle. The lower register of the drawing is comprised of smudged grey and pale blue gouache which almost entirely obscures the town of Treis faintly suggested at bottom right.
The atmospherics of this drawing evoke the aesthetics of Romanticism and the natural sublime. Romanticism, an artistic, literary and intellectual movement, originated in Europe toward the end of the eighteenth century, gaining momentum between 1800 and 1850. Turner is often associated with the Romantic Movement. For some Romantic artists the drama of external nature’s awe-inspiring landscapes stimulated many of this Movement’s precepts and concerns. Of particular importance here is the Romantic imagination’s elevation of the intense emotional experience animated by the sublimity of untamed nature. The light and landscape represented here by Turner depicts typical Romantic icons: the ancient, irregular mountains, time and weather beaten, encompassing the vestiges of Burg Treis and the dramatic weather haunting the ruined remains of a remote medieval castle.
There has been some fading and discolouration of the pigment and support due to exposure to sunlight following the picture’s exhibition.
Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCLIX 170’ at bottom towards right.