Joseph Mallord William Turner

Oberhofen from Lake Thun; the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau in the Distance


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 156 × 201 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXVI 67

Catalogue entry

Turner went by boat from Thun to Unterseen, and this sketch was made on the way, Oberhofen on the north shore of the lake being his probable first port of call. The twelfth-century castle by the lake shore is clearly seen. The mountains are identified by David Hill.
The similarity of this view to two watercolours of the mid or late 1840s has prompted speculation as to a possible connection, though it may only be coincidental. John Russell and Andrew Wilton noted that the subject prefigured the watercolour of Oberhofen then in the collection of Mrs Cecil Keith,1 which they were inclined to regard as a sample study, possibly for the other watercolour then belonging to Dr Kurt Pantzer (Indianapolis Museum of Art) though for this they retained its old title of ‘The Lake of Geneva’.2 Dating the Keith version, once known as ‘Lago di Garda’, to about 1845, they noted that the 1802 sketch meant that there was ‘no reason why the watercolour should be associated directly’ with Turner’s Swiss visits in the 1840s. Wilton independently (1979) published both late watercolours as Oberhofen, dating the Keith version to about 1844 but also possibly 1841, and identifying it as a ‘roll sketchbook drawing’ and the likely source of the Indianapolis watercolour, which he placed late in the 1840s. Ian Warrell associates the latter with a group of eight watercolours begun for John Ruskin in 1848;3 however, it does not appear that Ruskin ever owned it.4
Wilton 1979, p.487 no.1558.
Ibid., p.487 no.1557.
Ian Warrell, Through Switzerland with Turner: Ruskin’s First Selection from the Turner Bequest, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1995, p.155
Martin K. Krause, Turner in Indianapolis: The Pantzer Collection of Drawings and Watercolors by J.M.W. Turner and by His Contemporaries at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis 1997, p.244.
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘589’, top left, descending vertically

David Blayney Brown
March 2004

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