Joseph Mallord William Turner

Chamonix and Mont Blanc, from the Slopes of 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: 320 × 475 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXV 15

Display caption

It is hard to imagine how exciting it
must have been for Turner, who had
never previously travelled abroad,
finally to cross to the Continent. He was twenty-seven, and already a successful artist and Royal Academician. He had been on many sketching tours within Great Britain but because of the Napoleonic Wars had been unable to travel further afield. In 1802 however,
the Treaty of Amiens temporarily halted hostilities, enabling British tourists to
flock across the Channel. Turner eagerly grasped the opportunity to witness the amazing spectacle of the Swiss Alps.

Gallery label, September 2002

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Catalogue entry

This subject is similar to another coloured drawing from this sketchbook (D04610; Turner Bequest LXXV 18), but is more focused on the immediate foreground, the path to the Montenvers strewn with rocks and overhung by trees. In his catalogue for Marlborough House, John Ruskin described this as a ‘rough sketch made at the same time as the other, but looking down the valley towards Mont Blanc. [Turner] made a more elaborate sketch of this, and afterwards realised it for Mr Fawkes of Farnley.’1 The Fawkes watercolour, signed and dated 1809 (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester),2 has been identified by Eric Shanes as the Montanvert, Valley of Chamouni shown in Fawkes’s exhibition of his collection at 45 Grosvenor Place in 1819.3 Shanes describes the view as south-westwards down the valley of the River Arve, across a wide swathe of the Montenvers, with Mont Blanc high on the left.
In this drawing, there is at least one figure standing, and perhaps another seated. Turner’s inscription is somewhat obscure. Read by Finberg as ‘Teillio’ it is more probably Tullio and the name of a guide or some other traveller Turner met on the climb.
Ruskin on Pictures; Cook 1902, p.228; Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.268.
Wilton 1979, p.343 no.387, as ‘The Valley of Chamouni‘.
Eric Shanes, ‘Identifying Turner’s Chamonix water-colours’, The Burlington Magazine, vol.142 no.1172, November 2000, p.692
Inscribed by a later hand in pencil ‘8’ within a circle

David Blayney Brown
October 2011

Read full Catalogue entry


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