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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Mer de Glace, Looking up to the Aiguille de Tacul 1802

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Mer de Glace, Looking up to the Aiguille de Tacul 1802
Turner Bequest LXXV 23
Pencil, black chalk, watercolour and white gouache on white wove paper prepared with grey wash, 314 x 465 mm
Stamped in black ‘LXXV 23’ bottom right
Blind-stamped with the Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Described by John Russell and Andrew Wilton as ‘one of the most austere of all Turner’s drawings of the Alps’,1 this view of the Mer de Glace looking up to Aiguille de Tacul seems never to have been adopted for a finished watercolour. Instead it served as the basis of the Liber Studiorum plate Mer de Glace –Valley of Chamouni – Savoy. Since, unusually, no intermediate study for this plate is known it would appear that Turner worked directly from the present drawing. The plate, which he etched and engraved himself, is notably direct, retaining the spontaneity and raw power of the on-the-spot drawing. In his book Modern Painters, John Ruskin singled it out as an example of Turner’s exceptional understanding of mountain geology while in 1880, in more idiosyncratic notes on Turner’s Swiss drawings, he thought the artist was ‘trying to make [the ice] look like sea’.2
Russell and Wilton 1976, p.48.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.371 note 1.
Inscribed ?by Turner in pencil ‘down Montanvert... Chamoni’ and by a later hand in pencil ‘6’

David Blayney Brown
November 2011

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘The Mer de Glace, Looking up to the Aiguille de Tacul 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-the-mer-de-glace-looking-up-to-the-aiguille-de-tacul-r1146520, accessed 23 June 2024.