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Joseph Mallord William Turner, Blue Rigi, Sunrise, 1842. Watercolour on paper, 29,7 x 45cm, Tate, Purchased with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation and including generous support from David and Susan Gradel, and from other members of the public through the Save the Blue Rigi appeal) Tate Members and other donors 2007, © Tate, London, 2019

LUCERNE.- The British painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) travelled through Switzerland in search of spectacular motifs. During his travels he visited Lucerne several times in order to study the unique local interplay of light and weather conditions, lake and mountains. The artist first visited Central Switzerland in the year 1802, when tens of thousands of British travellers availed themselves of the brief period of the Peace of Amiens to go on the continent. The impressions of the sea and Alps were of major importance for Turner: here the beauty and the threat of nature culminated to typify the major theme of the sublime, which was central to Romanticism. With the advent of Romanticism, the Alps were no longer just an impediment on the way to the South, but a destination in themselves. At the same time they became a theme in art. Turner filled several sketchbooks with impressions of the rugged mountains. The depictions of the Schöllenenschlucht and the Mer de Glace testify to his interest in weather conditions and the elements in general. For this artist, good weather meant thunder storms and rain showers or at least a veil of mist and a cloudy sky. 

During his annual visits to Lucerne between 1841 and 1844, Turner made sketches of the Rigi massif from his hotel room and took steamboat excursions on Lake Lucerne. Back in his London studio he transposed his sketches into brilliant watercolours and oil paintings. Turner painted the Rigi in various light conditions and colour nuances so often that the art historian who administered his estate, John Ruskin, exclaimed in astonishment: “I cannot tell why he was so fond of the Rigi… “ 

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Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Schollen Gorge from the Devil's Bridge. Pass of St Gotthard, 1802, graphite, watercolor and gouache on paper, 47 x 31.4 cm, Tate, accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

Turner was a clever entrepreneur. He set up an exhibition space so as to present his works to potential buyers, and he also did sample studies. With these detailed sketches of Lake Lucerne and the Rigi he hoped to win commissions to further elaborate on the subjects. 

The almost one hundred works on loan from Great Britain and Switzerland include works-on-paper of motifs in Central Switzerland, among them the famous Blue Rigi, Sunrise (1844), the Lucerne Sketchbook, the first oil painting by Turner ever exhibited, and his fascinating later oeuvre. With the exhibition Turner. The Sea and the Alps the Kunstmuseum Lucerne is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Kunstgesellschaft Luzern, the supporting association of the Kunstmuseum Luzern. Turner visited Lucerne at the very time when the Kunstgesellschaft was being constituted. The foundation of the Kunstgesellschaft Luzern in 1819 by artists and members of the educated middle classes lent expression to the bourgeois need to participate in and shape society. In those same years, tourism also thrived and Central Switzerland exerted a magical attraction on travellers thanks to its countless beauty spots. The nascent tourism also spurred the development of Central Switzerland and stimulated interest in depictions of the Alps, and with it the sale of Turner’s works. 

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Joseph Mallord William Turner, Little Devil’s Bridge, ca. 1806/07, Graphite and watercolour on paper, 18.4 x 26 cm, Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 © Tate, London, 2019.

Sun Setting over a Lake

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Sun Setting over a Lake, c.1840, Oil paint on canvas91,1 x 122,6 cm, Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

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Joseph Mallord William Turner, Geneva, 1841, watercolor and pencil on paper, 22.8 x 29.3 cm, Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

Funeral at Lausanne

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Funeral at Lausanne, 1841Graphite and watercolour on paper23,5 x 33,7 cm, Tate, accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

Mont Pilatus Sunset

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Mont Pilatus: Sunset1841Watercolour on paper22,9 x 29,3 cm, Tate, accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

Geneva, the Jura Mountains and Isle Rousseau, Sunset

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Geneva, the Jura Mountains and Isle Rousseau, Sunset1841, Watercolour and graphite on paper, 22,8 x 29,3 cm, Tate, accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

The Red Rigi Sample Study

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Red Rigi: Sample Study, c.1841-42, Watercolour on paper22,8 x 30,2 cm, Tate, accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

The Blue Rigi Sample Study

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Blue Rigi: Sample Study, c.1841-42, Watercolour on paper, 23 x 32,6 cm, Tate, accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

Lausanne Sunset

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Lausanne: Sunset, c.1841-42, Gouache, graphite and watercolour on paper25,1 x 36,6 cm, Tate, accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

The Rigi with the Rising Moon

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Rigi with the Rising Moon1841-44Chalk and watercolour on paper27,6 x 34,9 cm, Tate, accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

Goldau, with the Lake of Zug in the Distance Sample Study

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Goldau, with the Lake of Zug in the Distance: Sample Study, c.1842-43Graphite and watercolour on paper22,8 x 29 cm, Tate, accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

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Joseph Mallord William Turner, Lucerne by Moonlight: Sample Study, c.1842-43, Watercolor on paper, 23.5 x 32.5 cm, Accepted by the nation as part of the Gymnast Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

Küssnacht, Lake of Lucerne Sample Study

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Küssnacht, Lake of Lucerne: Sample Study, c.1842-43, Graphite, watercolour and pen on paper22,8 x 29,2 cm, Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

Brunnen, from the Lake of Lucerne Sample Study

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Brunnen, from the Lake of Lucerne: Sample Study, ?1843-45, Graphite, watercolour and gouache on paper, 24,2 x 29,6 cm, Accepted by the nation as part of the Gymnast Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

Lake Lucerne Sample Study

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Lake Lucerne: Sample Study, 1844, Graphite and watercolour on paper24,4 x 30,3 cm, Tate, accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

The Lake of Lucerne from Fluelen

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Lake of Lucerne from Fluelen, ?1843-45, Graphite, watercolour and pen on paper, 24,1 x 29,7 cm, Accepted by the nation as part of the Gymnast Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

A Storm over the Rigi

Joseph Mallord William Turner, A Storm over the Rigi, c.1844, Watercolour on paper25 x 37,1 cm, Tate, accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

Sunset From the Top of the Rigi

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Sunset From the Top of the Rigi, c.1844, Oil paint on canvas71,1 x 96,5 cm, Tate, accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

Lake Lucerne the Bay of Uri from above Brunnen

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Lake Lucerne: the Bay of Uri from above Brunnenc.1844, Oil paint on canvas, 72,7 x 98,3 cm, Tate, accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2019

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Joseph Mallord William Turner, Storm in the St Gotthard Pass. The First Bridge above Altdorf: Sample Study, c.1844 / 45, Pencil, Watercolor and Ink on Paper, 23.9 x 29.7 cm, Accepted by the nation as part of the Gymnast Bequest 1856, © Tate, London, 2018.