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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Bonneville, Savoy c.1812-15

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Bonneville, Savoy circa 1812–15
Turner Bequest CXVIII J
Watercolour on white wove lightweight writing paper, 190 x 286 mm
(Part) watermark ‘J Whatman
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Etching (attributed), mezzotint and aquatint by Henry Dawe, ‘Bonneville, Savoy.’, published Turner, ?1 January 1819 although dated 1 January 1816
Turner’s Liber Studiorum design was informed by the studies, watercolours and paintings of the French town on the Arve deriving from his visit in 1802, early in his journey through the Alps on his first Continental tour, in particular a colour study in the St Gothard and Mont Blanc sketchbook (Tate D04599; Turner Bequest LXXV 7), looking east from the Geneva road which Turner had travelled. It is one of several Liber designs based on sketches in the book (see also Tate D08123, D08153, D08161; Turner Bequest CXVI V, CXVII Y, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII G; and Tate N03631; in addition, Mer de Glace1 may have been etched directly from another page).
The colour sketch was the basis of the painting Bonneville, Savoy, with Mont Blanc, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1803 (Dallas Museum of Art),2 two watercolours of about 1808–9 (private collection3 and British Museum, London, 1910–2–12–2844), and a second version in oils, A View of the Castle of St Michael, near Bonneville, Savoy, exhibited at Royal Academy in 1812 (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 848).5 As compared with the oil versions, the town in the Liber design has been moved towards the centre, leaving the boulders and figures behind at the lower left. The looming mountains have been emphasised by concealing most of the second range beyond the town and positioning the nearer, steep slope immediately behind the towers and gables. The attitudes of the two figures in the foreground are similar to those in the 1812 Philadelphia version, and are thus among possible indicators of the date of the present work; it has been suggested that Turner’s plan to include the view in the Liber may even have prompted the 1812 oil.6
Gillian Forrester has registered the uncertainty of precedence between the oil and the drawing, but it seems likely at least that the latter dates from about the same time, if not a little later.7 Between 1802 and 1817, Turner also made a parallel, variant sequence of works showing the mountains from a similar angle, but with the town further in the distance down a road leading from the left foreground and with a building and trees to the right.8
The composition is noted, as ‘Daws Bonneville – E P or M’, with various other Liber subjects inside the back cover of the Liber Notes (1) sketchbook (Tate D40871; Turner Bequest CXLIII); Gillian Forrester dates Turner’s list to 1815, as this and another subject were printed by the beginning of 1816, though Turner was uncertain when making his list whether to categorise Bonneville an ‘EP’ or (as it became) ‘Mountainous’.9 It also appears, as ‘Bonneville’, in a list of ‘Mountainous’ subjects in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12166; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 28a).10 It is noted again, as ‘Bonneville Printed’, in a list (now rubbed and difficult to decipher) of Liber works in progress around 1817–18 inside the back cover of the Aesacus and Hesperie sketchbook (Tate D40933; Turner Bequest CLXIX).11
The Liber Studiorum etching, mezzotint and aquatint engraving, with etching attributed to Henry Dawe and also engraved by him, bears the publication date 1 January 1816, but was issued to subscribers as ‘Bonneville, Savoy.’ in part 13 (Rawlinson/Finberg nos.62–66;12 see also Tate D08163, D08165–D08166; Turner Bequest CXVIII K, L, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII I) – other prints in this part are dated 1 January 1819. Tate holds impressions of the preliminary outline etching (Tate A01134) and the published engraving (A01135). It is one of fourteen published Liber Studiorum subjects in Turner’s ‘Mountainous’ category (see also Tate D08113, D08119, D08123, D08130, D08134, D08148, D08153, D08156, D08161, D08165; Turner Bequest CXVI L, R, V, CXVII C, G, T, Y, CXVIII K, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII B, G).
Frank Short included this composition13 among his Twelve Subjects from the Liber Studiorum of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Etched and Mezzotinted by Frank Short (published by Robert Dunthorne of the Rembrandt Gallery, London, between 1885 and 1888), the first series of his Liber interpretations (Tate T05053;14 see general Liber introduction).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.103–4 no.50; 1906, pp.121–2 no.50; Finberg 1924, pp.197–200 no.50.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.35–6 no.46, pl.56 (colour).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, 1979, p.343 no.381, reproduced.
Ibid., no.385, reproduced.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.87–8 no.124, pl.57 (colour).
Ibid., p.87.
Forrester 1996, p.126.
Wilton 1979, p.340 no.355, reproduced; Butlin and Evelyn Joll 1984, pp.39–40 no.50, pl.59 (colour); Tate D04901 (Turner Bequest LXXX H); Wilton 1979, p.345 no.400.
Forrester 1996, p.160 (transcribed).
Ibid., p.162 (transcribed).
Ibid., p.163 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.126–34; Rawlinson 1906, pp.148–58; Finberg 1924, pp.245–64.
Hardie 1938, p.51 no.12.
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986 – 88, London 1996, p.72.
Technical notes:
Although the watermarked date has been trimmed from its edge, the sheet has been identified as having once been part of the Studies for Liber sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CXV),1 other pages of which bear the ‘J Whatman | 1807’ watermark; as it has been trimmed to the image as engraved (intact pages in the sketchbook being 230 x 381 mm), it is not possible to establish its original location in the book by matching it to the stubs that remain there. The watercolour washes were applied very wet with a fine brush, leaving hard edges, and applied with another instrument, possibly a steel nib. There is no pencil work; lights were reserved and the watercolour applied medium-rich. There are more shades of brown present than in most Liber drawings. Shades of greyish sepia, burnt sienna and a browner earth colour are present, and also an umber pigment.2
Forrester 1996, pp.15, 24 note 82, 126 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8); see also Bower, Tate conservation files.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files, with slide of detail.
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘64’ and ‘J’ centre, and ‘64’ and ‘D.08164’ bottom left
Stamped in black ‘[crown] | N•G | CXVIII – J’ bottom left
Thin tape and the residue of former mounting are evident all round the edges of the sheet.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Bonneville, Savoy c.1812–15 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2008, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-bonneville-savoy-r1131767, accessed 20 June 2024.