Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Mer de Glace and Valley of Chamonix


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Crayon and watercolour on paper
Support: 556 × 723 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXIX L

Catalogue entry

See notes to D04880; Turner Bequest LXXIX F for drawings of the Valley of Chamonix and Mer de Glace made on large loose sheets of grey-washed English paper. Of these, this is the closest to a still larger watercolour (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut)1 long thought to have been exhibited in 1803 but to be redated c.1814 and retitled Mer de Glace, in the Valley of Chamouni, Switzerland in the opinion of Eric Shanes.2 As Lindsay Stainton has observed, this drawing anticipates the ‘epic scale’ of the Yale watercolour and develops its central motifs, with groups of trees including the pair of smaller dead and leafless trunks in the middle distance at the edge of the Mer de Glace.
Turner used a similar view for the Liber Studiorum plate The Source of the Arveron in the Valley of Chamouni Savoy, via the study (Tate D08161; Turner Bequest CXVIII G). Gillian Forrester suggests this was intended to form a pair with another Liber subject, Mill near the Grande Chartreuse.3
See notes to D04880 for the possibility that Turner referred to these large drawings for his picture The Fall of an Avalanche in the Grisons exhibited in Turner’s Gallery in 1810 (Tate N00489)4 for which no directly preparatory studies are known.
Wilton 1979, p.341 no.365, as ‘Glacier and Source of the Arveron, Going up to the Mer de Glace’ and exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1803.
Eric Shanes, ‘Identifying Turner’s Chamonix Water-colours’, The Burlington Magazine, vol.142 no.1172, November 2000, pp.692–4. For a cautious response to the redating see Gillian Forrester in John Baskett, Jules David Prown, Duncan Robinson and others, Paul Mellon’s Legacy: A Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, exhibition catalogue, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 2007, p.283.
Forrester 1996, p.122.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed.1984, New Haven and London 1984, pp.77–8 no.109 (pl.118).
Technical notes:
For the paper and preparation see D04875.
Laid down

David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop