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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Geneva and Lac Leman 1802

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 5 Recto:
Geneva and Lac Leman 1802
Turner Bequest LXXIII 5
Pencil, with blue, pink and greenish-yellow watercolour on light grey-buff laid paper, 138 x 215 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘Lac Genevre’, lower centre
Stamped in black ‘LXXIII 5’ bottom left, descending vertically
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner stayed at or near Geneva for several days in 1802, to prepare for his tour of the Mont Blanc region. Various drawings are scattered through this sketchbook; see folios 35, 39–42 (D04427, D04433–D04436). This is a view of the lake looking east, from near Sècheron, towards Mont Blanc; there are fishing boats on the water. As the sketch appears out of sequence with the others made around Geneva, Turner was perhaps now working back through the book, filling up blank pages. The location has prompted David Hill to suggest that Turner stayed at Sècheron, at the Hôtel d’Angleterre, which was comfortable, popular with British visitors and commanded superb views; he quotes the opinion of a British guest in 1802 that these combined ‘the advantages of rich cultivated scenery with those of majestic grandeur’.
Residence at some remove from the city would, as Hill further notes, have been desirable as it was still unsettled and, having been made the capital of the French Department of Léman, full of French soldiers.1 There is no trace of a stressful atmosphere in the large watercolour Turner made about 1808 for Walter Fawkes (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut),2 for which he used this sketch for the background; the colour trials at lower right of this leaf, of blue, greenish yellow and pink, must have been made as he worked on Fawkes’s watercolour. The foreground of the Fawkes watercolour was developed from folio 35 in this sketchbook (D04427), a view of the city with Mont Saléve, which is similarly marked with colour. A second version of the finished view is in the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad.3 Turner also used the present sketch as the basis for his vignette, The Lake of Geneva (Tate D27669; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 152), engraved for Samuel Rogers’s Italy, 1830.
Hill 1992, p.45.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.342 no.370 reproduced.
Ibid., p.343 no.382.

David Blayney Brown
June 2004

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Geneva and Lac Leman 1802 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, June 2004, 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-geneva-and-lac-leman-r1133023, accessed 24 June 2024.