Joseph Mallord William Turner

Composition study for ‘Lake of Geneva with Mont Blanc from the Lake’; a Group of Figures


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk on paper
Support: 436 × 271 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXXI 159

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, the chalk landscape study is similar to the one immediately adjacent on folio 80 verso opposite (D05060; Turner Bequest LXXXI 158). For other studies in this book for the watercolour of about 1805, Lake of Geneva, with Mont Blanc from the Lake (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),1 see under folio 8 verso (D04917; Turner Bequest LXXXI 16). This one is unusual in taking a more elevated viewpoint, so that the curve of the lake shore occupies the centre rather than the bottom of the composition, and the whole subject is extended upwards; this squarer format recurs in the drawings on the verso (D05062; Turner Bequest LXXXI 160). Turner abandoned this scheme in the finished work.
Above left of the landscape and made with the page turned horizontally, the unrelated ink figure subject is difficult to decipher; it shows a tangle of bodies, possibly round a galloping horse, possibly among clouds. It is perhaps related to The Army of the Medes Destroyed in the Desart by a Whirlwind,2 a lost Biblical painting shown at the Royal Academy in 1801 for which a firmly identifiable drawing is on folio 84 recto (D05067; Turner Bequest LXXXI 165).

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.342 no.370, reproduced.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.13–15 no.15.

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