Collection in Focus: Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Pass of St. Gotthard, near Faido

Take a closer look at J.M.W. Turner’s remarkable work The Pass of St. Gotthard, near Faido with Jennifer Tonkovich, Eugene and Clare Thaw Curator of Drawings and Prints, as she shares its unique connections to art criticism.

Turner executed this drawing in 1843 on commission from John Ruskin, who became his most ardent patron. The subject is the mountain pass at St. Gotthard, in the Swiss alps between Lucerne and Lugano. Every spring the ice melts at St. Gotthard's Pass near Faido and turns the Ticino River into a torrent that sweeps rocks downstream. Turner visited the region in August 1842 on one of his annual trips to Switzerland between 1841 and 1845. As was his practice at the time, he returned with quick pencil sketches made on the spot, working them into what he called sample studies to show to prospective clients for whom he would produce a finished watercolor.

Ranging from preparatory studies and sketches to finished works of art, the nearly twelve thousand drawings in The Morgan Library & Museum's collection span the fourteenth through twenty-first centuries. The primary focus is European drawings executed before 1825, but the Morgan's holdings include a growing number of nineteenth- and twentieth-century works on paper as well as drawings by American artists. In addition to a print collection of British political satires and portraits, about two hundred paintings, sculptures, medieval reliquaries, and ceramics, the Morgan has the largest and most representative collection of Rembrandt etchings in the United States.