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Joseph Mallord William Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner
(1775–1851)

Lucerne from the Lake

Watercolor over preliminary traces of pencil
11 5/8 x 18 5/8 inches (295 x 473 mm)

Thaw Collection

1996.148
Item description: 

Commissioned by Ruskin, this drawing was executed by Turner in 1845. The view represents the Lake of Lucerne at sunset, the golden light shimmering across the distant mountains, with the blue of the water and coast suggested by jewel-like colors. Executed in Turner's last and perhaps greatest phase, his brushwork is free, as is his use of color. His technical mastery, as well as his attempt to suggest the intangible, enabled him to achieve dazzling effects in watercolor. Despite Ruskin's praise in Modern Painters, Turner's later drawings and oils were not understood and were much criticized for their lack of form. Ruskin hung this drawing, along with several other views of lakes by Turner, in his dining room. He sold this sheet in 1865 because he could not bear to think how much Lucerne had changed over the years.