Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lake with Mountains and Village, possibly a study for ‘Lake of Geneva’, Rogers’s ‘Italy’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 169 × 239 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 106

Catalogue entry

Although the subject of this simple watercolour sketch remains unidentified, it almost certainly depicts a view from across a Swiss lake, and is possibly a preliminary study for Lake of Geneva, the introductory vignette in the 1830 edition of Rogers’s Italy (see Tate D27669; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 152). Grey cliffs and blue mountains loom above a small village, which is sparingly outlined in pencil at the centre of the image. The lake itself is indicated by several pencil strokes, touches of blue paint, and by a hastily sketched boat in the right-hand corner of the image. The design bears little relation to the final illustration. As well as being much smaller than the finished watercolour, it differs significantly in composition, subject matter, and tone. Whereas Lake of Geneva shows a colourful boating party surrounded by gently sloping, snow-capped mountains, the primary focus of this study is the dramatic disparity in scale between the towering Alpine landscape and the small village enclosed within it.
The other potential study for Lake of Geneva is Tate D27526; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 9.
Turner produced this and three other preliminary studies for Italy vignettes on sheets of the same paper type and dimensions; it is possible that they originally formed part of a single sheet. The three related studies are Tate D27618, D27621, D27622; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 101, 104, 105. ‘Studies for Italy. Coarse, but noble’ are the words John Ruskin used to describe them on the wrapper in which they were once contained.1 Finberg records how Ruskin later described his phrasing in a letter to Ralph Nicholson Wornum as ‘horrible’, adding ‘I never meant it to be permanent’.2
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings in the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol. II, p.896.
Finberg 1909, vol.I, p.xi.
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘AB 83 P’ and ‘R’ and ‘CCLXXX 106’ bottom right

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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