In Turner’s Footsteps between Lucerne and Thun: #11a-12 Arrival at Stansstad

Here we resume our journey through Turner’s Between Lucerne and Thun sketchbook. We left Turner enjoying a boat ride across the Lake of Lucerne and taking in panoramas of Mont Pilatus in one direction and of the Burgenstock in another.

Turner’s Between Lucerne and Thun sketchbook, Tate, open at pages 11a-12

This double-page spread records a succession of views as the boat rounded the point at Kastanienbaum and arrived at Stansstad.

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He took successive views looking east to the Rigi and Burgenstock, and looking west up the valley of the Alpnachersee with the Stanserhorn on the left and Mont Pilatus on the right. The pencil work is rapid but observant, and there is a sense of urgent, but not frantic concentration, that reinforces the impression already gleaned that he was travelling in a rowing boat, rather than a steamer. We learn from Murray’s 1838 Guide to Switzerland that the charge for boat hire to Stansstad was 1f50c for the boat and 1.50 for each man. Two men would have comfortably rowed the distance in well under two hours. The steamer fare would have been only about 1.50 but taken little more than half an hour.

On the left-hand page are five sketches, recording (in sequence):-

View on Lake: The Rigi, Bürgenstock, and Stanzstad circa 1841 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/D33153

1) (top) Rounding the point at Kastanienbaum, with the Rigi to the left and the Burgenstock to the right. Similar to the view recorded in f.11r, previously.

View on Lake: The Rigi, Bürgenstock, and Stanzstad circa 1841 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/D33153

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2) (second from top) Rounding the point at Kastanienbaum, continuing the panorama to the right,  looking towards Stansstad and the entrance to the Alpnachersee with the Stanserhorn to the right and Mt Pilatus to the right.

View on Lake: The Rigi, Bürgenstock, and Stanzstad circa 1841 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/D33153

3) (bottom, with page held upside-down) A distant view of Stansstad and the entrance to the Alpnachersee. Inscribed ‘1’. Similar material sketched on a larger scale on f.12r, opposite, but from a viewpoint slightly further left, and sketched again on f.12v.

View on Lake: The Rigi, Bürgenstock, and Stanzstad circa 1841 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/D33153

4) (second from bottom, with page held upside-down) Approaching Stansstad, looking into the valley of the Alpnachersee. Inscribed ‘2’.  Similar material sketched on a larger scale on f.12r, opposite, but from a viewpoint slightly further left.

View on Lake: The Rigi, Bürgenstock, and Stanzstad circa 1841 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/D33153

5) (middle of page) Arriving at Stansstad, the Schnitzturm

Stansstad was remarkable mainly for its 13th century watchtowers, but was historically an important staging post, looking onto the crossroads of the four main arms of Lake Lucerne, and standing on the isthmus between main lake and the Alpnachersee. The latter gave onto the Brunig pass, one of the principal routes west from Lake Lucerne, connecting with Thun and Bern, so the little town was an important hub with a constant flow of goods and traffic, although few stayed for any length of time.

Turner was always drawn to sites of geographic significance, and the tower of the Schnitzturm provided a lynchpin around which life in the area turned. It is not surprising that he made it a prominent landmark of his own journey.

Two sketches on the opposite page further ensured that Turner thoroughly fixed the memory of his approach to the town.

Views on Lake: Stanzstad circa 1841 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/D33154

1) (top to bottom) A distant view of Stansstad and the entrance to the Alpnachersee. Almost exactly the same view as that inscribed ‘1’ on the opposite page, f.11v, and the subject repeated overleaf on f.12v from further to the right.

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Views on Lake: Stanzstad circa 1841 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/D33154

2) (bottom to top) Off Stansstad, with the Schnitzturm, looking south-east to the Brisen (2413m) and to a glimpse of the ‘Snow’-capped peak of the Ruchstock (2814m). A similar view to that inscribed ‘2’ on the opposite page, f.11v, but shifting the centre of attention further left. The glimpse of one of the higher peaks seems to have switched on Turner’s alertness to such appearances.

It is worth noting that these sketches both give clear shadow indications and thus evidence of the time of day. The sun is in both cases in the south-west so the time of day is mid-afternoon.

Turner seems to have spent little time ashore. Perhaps long enough for a meal before he was on his way again.

Next: Across the Alpnachersee

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