Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘Lake of Geneva, with Mont Blanc from the Lake’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk on paper
Support: 271 x 436 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXXI 32

Catalogue entry

This study was made with the page turned horizontally; for others relating to the large watercolour of about 1805, Lake of Geneva, with Mont Blanc from the Lake (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),1 see under folio 8 verso (D04917; Turner Bequest LXXXI 16).
The subject obviously derives from Turner’s journey to France and Switzerland in the summer and autumn of 1802, and is one of a series of ambitious watercolour subjects treating motifs gathered on that tour. Others are St Huges Denouncing Vengeance on the Shepherd of Cormayer, in the Valley of d’Aoust, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1803 (Sir John Soane’s Museum, London),2 and The Passage of Mount St Gothard, Taken from the Centre of the Teufels Broch (Devil’s Bridge), Switzerland (Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal)3 and The Great Fall of the Reichenbach, in the Valley of Hasle, Switzerland (The Higgins Bedford),4 both shown at Turner’s gallery in 1804 and again at the Academy in 1815. Further subjects were developed in the course of the next few years, and the journey also resulted in a long series of smaller watercolours.
It is noteworthy that Turner’s ideas for the Lake Geneva subject can be seen in the sequence of sketches in this book to interlock with the train of thought that was to lead in 1807 to the large canvas Sun Rising through Vapour; Fishermen Cleaning and Selling Fish, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1807 (National Gallery, London).5 For drawings on that theme, see under folio 12 verso (D04925; Turner Bequest LXXXI 24).

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.342 no.370, reproduced.
Ibid., p.341 no.364, pl.91.
Ibid., no.366, pl.93.
Ibid., no.367, reproduced.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.53–4 no.69, pl.79 (colour).

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