Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lake Lucerne: the Bay of Uri from above Brunnen


On loan

ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum (Aarhus, Denmark): Turner Watercolours: Sun is God

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 727 × 983 mm
frame: 835 × 1095 × 60 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Display caption

This scumbled and brilliant paint surface is, at first, difficult to decipher. A small house beneath a cliff is discernible in the lower left corner, while mountains loom on the right hand side of the canvas. It is thought to have been begun a year or two after Turner’s visit to Switzerland in 1842, and has been connected to a watercolour of the same subject completed that year.

Gallery label, February 2010

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Technique and condition

Turner applied his oil paint to a commercially primed canvas. The priming contains lead white and chalk and is pale pink/mushroom in tone. Preliminary layers are painted in thin glazes and scumbles. Over these an opaque white paint, sometimes mixed with other colours has been applied with a palette knife and brush. There are many small, sometimes sharp impasted areas. Preliminary pencil drawing is visible, particularly in the area of the cottage suggesting that this painting may well be at an early stage of Turner's creative process. The grid-like dirt impressions visible on its surface are evidence that the artist stacked his unfinished paintings while they were still wet. The shapes are the impressions of other canvases. It is interesting to speculated whether or not he intended to return to the painting and work it to a higher level of finish at some later stage.

The right hand edge of this painting was severely damaged in the Thames Flood of 1928. As a result the canvas had been lined and the losses filled and retouched. Although the painting is now structurally stable discolouration of the retouching is aesthetically disfiguring.

It is possible that the painting is lighter in appearance than the artist intended, as a result of the fading of light sensitive pigments. The paint medium has a tendency to darken and lighten depending upon the amount of light it is exposed to.

Elizabeth Reissner
February 2001

Catalogue entry

521. [N05476] Mountain Scene with Lake and Hut c. 1840–5


Oil and pencil on canvas, 28 × 38 (71 × 96·5)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (141, one of 2 each 3'2" × 2'4" with No. 522; identified 1946 and 1973 by chalk number on back); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1947.

Exh. R.A. 1974–5 (569).

Lit. Davies 1946, pp. 157, 188; Butlin 1981, p. 45.

Correctly grouped with No. 522 [N05486] in the schedule of the Turner Bequest as similar not only in size but also in style, handling and subject. The scene may well be a Swiss lake, being similar to those depicted by Turner in a number of watercolours of the 1840s. The two pictures are akin in style and subject to the National Gallery of Victoria's Val d'Aosta (No. 520). Both Nos. 521 [N05476] and 522 [N05486] are painted on canvases bearing the form of T. Brown stamp that seems to have come into use in about 1839.

A rectilinear pattern of lines of dirt impressed into the paint when it was still wet, and a similarly impressed texture from canvas in the lower right-hand corner, show that other pictures were leant against this one while it was fresh in Turner's studio; the lines have been minimised by conservation treatment. The original paint is missing down the left-hand edge.

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984


You might like

In the shop