Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lucerne from the Banks of the River Reuss, the Rigi in the Background


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 154 × 240 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXVII 36

Catalogue entry

Turner reached Lucerne via the Brünig Pass, of which he apparently made no sketches, perhaps, as David Hill conjectures, on account of bad weather. As Hill points out, this view is taken looking south-east towards Lucerne, whose towers and turrets appear against the backdrop of the Rigi and other mountains. Another of Lucerne is on folio 48 (D04794). Turner also made a closer view of the city above the banks of the Reuss in his Lake Thun sketchbook (Tate D04698; Turner Bequest LXXVI 41).
The initial ‘F’ on the present sketch must refer to a commission from Walter Fawkes for a finished watercolour of the subject, which however does not seem to have been executed, although the colour study Moonrise over the Kapellbrücke (Tate D04812; Turner Bequest CXVIII b) which Turner developed from the Lake Thun sketch around 1807 and used for the Liber Studiorum could conceivably have provided an alternative. In the event, Fawkes chose as his Lucerne subject the more distant Lake of Lucerne, from the Landing Place at Fluelen, Looking Towards Bauen and Tell’s Chapel, Switzerland, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1815 (on the London art market in 2007).1 See folio 34 of this sketchbook (D04774) for another sketch marked up for Fawkes and connected with a watercolour of his.

David Blayney Brown
October 2009

Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p.342 no.378; Sotheby’s sale, 4 July 2007, lot 7.

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