Lot 3
  • 3

Joseph Mallord William Turner R.A. 1775-1851

600,000 - 800,000 GBP
972,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Joseph Mallord William Turner R.A.
  • Lausanne from the West
  • watercolour over pencil with scratching out, pen with red and blue ink, gum arabic and touches of black chalk


Thomas Greenwood;
W.G. Rawlinson;
John Edward Taylor, his sale, Christie's London, 5th July 1912, lot 58 (2,500 guineas, bt. Agnew's); 
T.A. Tatton, his sale, Christie's London, 14th December 1928, lot 29 (bt. Harrison);
Private Collection, Germany;
with Richard Green Ltd


Essen, Museum Folkwang and Zurich Kunsthaus, William Turner, Licht und Farbe, 2001, p. 353, no. 169


The Studio, 1909, pl. XXV;
Andrew Wilton, JMW Turner: His Art and Life, 1979, p. 475, no. 1459  

Catalogue Note

In this watercolour Turner depicts the quaint and historic town of Lausanne. The distinctive towers of Notre Dame, and the form of the 15th century castle, perch high on the crest of the hills. Despite there being a very picturesque view of the town from the Lake of Geneva below, Turner chose his own enchanting perspective from further down the Vallais on the western approach to Lausanne. The view is dominated by the gorge through which the River Flon had once flowed and over which the newly built Grand Pont is displayed in full view.

The struggling figure pushing his heavily laden load on the near left hand corner may be an indication of the previous strenuous effort involved with the steep approach to Lausanne prior to the construction of the bridge. Furthermore, it is tempting to suggest that delight for this new and novel approach to Lausanne is reflected in the excitement with which the carriage and people hurry towards the brow of the hill and towards Lausanne via the bridge.

Based upon a sketch of c. 1841 (Fig.1), Turner appears to re-develop the earlier sweeping washes of colour into the lively figurative gathering we see in this watercolour.[i] The startling freshness of the colours blue, red, yellow and green arrest and transfix the viewer's attention even from a distance. Turner uses this kaleidoscope of vivid colours in an exuberant display of technical virtuosity. This progresses from the conventional delineation of the scene in pencil, followed by subsequent application of washes, and finally the vigorous scratching out of details and the delicate heightening of subject and form with pen. The broad sweeps of stopping out with a rag almost completely remove the watercolour wash applied to the lower right hand quarter of the sheet, the bold and confident handling of which serves to emphasise the delicacy of the fine red pen and scratching out of the figures in the foreground. The confident immediacy of certain techniques juxtapose with the delicate treatment of others. Chance effects appear miraculously intentional as watercolour is transformed into the impression of landscape, air and people.

Watercolours such as this remain a lasting testimony to Turner's love for Switzerland. It is perhaps no surprise that they, though once considered revolutionary as mere impressions of landscape views, are now highly prized. This watercolour has rarely appeared on the open market but in 1912 it fetched 2,500 guineas at auction. A remarkable sum in itself, and just a little less than the 2,700 guineas fetched by lot 46 the Blue Rigi recently acquired by Tate Britain.

[i] 'Lausanne' Sketchbook (TB CCCCXXXIV 8).

[ii] Sir E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, eds., The Works of John Ruskin (Library Ed), 39, V., 1903-12, Praeterita., XXXV, p. 309 as quoted in Andrew Wilton, Turner in his Time, 2006, p. 194.

[iii] Ian Warrell, lit.op.cit, 1999, p. 151

[iv] Lord Clark, 'The Artist Grows Old,' Exploring Late Turner, ed. Leslie Parris, 1999, p. 161