Unusually, the indisputable stars of this year’s Old Master and British Drawings sale are topographical views: Turner’s Lausanne from the West and The Domleschg Valley - two magical works dating from the early 1840s; Canaletto’s ravishing, newly discovered view of the Campo di San Giacomo di Rialto, Venice –thehistoric centre of Venice’s banking activities – executed about a century earlier; Lusieri’s magical view of Lake Averno.
Considered by many to be Britain’s greatest artist, Turner pushed the boundaries of watercolour painting to new heights. Both these works demonstrate perfectly his revolutionary, virtuoso technique. In the first, he depicts the historic town of Lausanne with a kaleidoscope of vivid colour. His use of vigorous scratching and stopping out, juxtaposed with a delicate use of pen and ink, combine to transfix the viewer’s attention even from a distance. In the second Turner is seen working in the Swiss Alps, in the remote Domleschg Valley. Adopting a low view-point, close to the icy blue waters of the windswept river, he looks north towards the dramatic gorge of Rothenbrunnen. John Ruskin described this watercolour as ‘one of the most beautiful existing of the late time.’