J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Blair's Hut on the Montenvers 1802

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Blair’s Hut on the Montenvers 1802
Turner Bequest LXXV 22
Pencil, black chalk, watercolour and gouache on white wove paper prepared with grey wash, 314 x 468 mm
Stamped in black ‘LXXV 22’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner’s label for this drawing reads ‘Mer de Glace, le Cabin de Blair, Aiguile du Rouge’ [sic].
Blair’s hut or the ‘Cabin’ or ‘Château de Blair’ was built in 1779 by Charles Blair, an Englishman living in Geneva, as a viewing station on the Montenvers. A simple wooden structure with the motto ‘Utile Dulci’ above the door, it commanded a view of the Mer de Glace. Turner and his travelling companion Newbey Lowson must have been taken there by a guide and the artist climbed down to the glacier itself to make his drawing. Cracked ice occupies the foreground and the hut is glimpsed on pine-clad slopes in the left distance. Behind are the Aiguilles Rouges and the Col des Montets. Even if added afterwards over a quick outline done on the spot, the broad washes of watercolour and highlights of white gouache are powerfully expressive of the bleak grandeur of the scenery and of overcast weather. Turner made a finished watercolour of this subject, Mer de Glace, Blair’s Hut, for Walter Fawkes whose initial ‘F’ is marked on the label. The watercolour (Courtauld Gallery, London)1 may have been shown at Turner’s Gallery in 1806 but, according to Eric Shanes, could date from as early as 1803.2
Wilton 1979, p.342 no.371.
Eric Shanes, ‘Identifying Turner’s Chamonix water-colours’, The Burlington Magazine, vol.142 no.1172, November 2000, p.694 notes 38, 39.
Inscribed by a later hand in pencil ‘2’ within a circle

David Blayney Brown
November 2011

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Blair’s Hut on the Montenvers 1802 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, November 2011, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, August 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-blairs-hut-on-the-montenvers-r1146519, accessed 23 June 2024.