Joseph Mallord William Turner

Geneva and Lac Leman


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 138 × 215 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXIII 5

Catalogue entry

Turner stayed at or near Geneva for several days in 1802, to prepare for his tour of the Mont Blanc region. Various drawings are scattered through this sketchbook; see folios 35, 39–42 (D04427, D04433–D04436). This is a view of the lake looking east, from near Sècheron, towards Mont Blanc; there are fishing boats on the water. As the sketch appears out of sequence with the others made around Geneva, Turner was perhaps now working back through the book, filling up blank pages. The location has prompted David Hill to suggest that Turner stayed at Sècheron, at the Hôtel d’Angleterre, which was comfortable, popular with British visitors and commanded superb views; he quotes the opinion of a British guest in 1802 that these combined ‘the advantages of rich cultivated scenery with those of majestic grandeur’.
Residence at some remove from the city would, as Hill further notes, have been desirable as it was still unsettled and, having been made the capital of the French Department of Léman, full of French soldiers.1 There is no trace of a stressful atmosphere in the large watercolour Turner made about 1808 for Walter Fawkes (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut),2 for which he used this sketch for the background; the colour trials at lower right of this leaf, of blue, greenish yellow and pink, must have been made as he worked on Fawkes’s watercolour. The foreground of the Fawkes watercolour was developed from folio 35 in this sketchbook (D04427), a view of the city with Mont Saléve, which is similarly marked with colour. A second version of the finished view is in the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad.3 Turner also used the present sketch as the basis for his vignette, The Lake of Geneva (Tate D27669; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 152), engraved for Samuel Rogers’s Italy, 1830.
Hill 1992, p.45.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.342 no.370 reproduced.
Ibid., p.343 no.382.

David Blayney Brown
June 2004

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