In Turner’s Footsteps between Lucerne and Thun: #13a-14 Landing at Alpnach

Here we continue our journey through Turner’s Between Lucerne and Thun sketchbook. On the previous page we left Turner in afternoon sunshine being rowed across the Alpnachersee. On this page we land at the head of the lake and continue our journey by road to the village of Alpnach.

Turner’s Between Lucerne and Thun sketchbook, Tate, open at pages 13a-14

The main sketch on the top page is a careful record of the view south from the Alpnachersee.

[On a desktop, right click image for option to open full-size in new tab. Close tab to return to this page.]

We can make out the spire of Alpnach church a mile or so off to the right, and in the distance the valley leading towards the Brunig Pass. If conditions had been right Turner might just have caught a glimpse of the Eiger on the horizon towards the left, but it must have been lost in the haze and glare of the afternoon sun.

Shortly after, Turner disembarked at Gestad. Murray’s 1838 guide described this as the port for all going to or from the Brunig. The road towards pass was fit for light carriages or chars, and Murray tells us that chars could be hired there and taken to Lungern at the foot of the pass for 18 French francs. Today the landing draws huge numbers of tourists to take the cog railway to the summit of Mont Pilatus. It has the reputation of being the steepest in the world, and Turner would no doubt have loved it, but it was as yet forty years in the future.

Lake, with Mountains 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/D33157

On the same page Turner made a quick sketch of a woman in traditional costume, wearing an elaborate ‘W[hite] headdress’, if that is the right reading of the inscription. The note reminds us that Turner’s landscape is also a human landscape, and he was always alert to those that made their livings in the scenery through which he passed.

Church, Mountains, Etc. (?Alpnach) 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/D33158

The opposite page contains two sketches. Firstly, across the top he drew the view looking back down the lake towards Stansstad. The Burgenstock at the foot of the lake is perfectly recognisable, but the mountains to the right are rather compressed in, extending all the way to the peak of the Stanserhorn.  To the left of this sketch is the figure of a woman, possibly the same as that drawn on the opposite page. She must be standing on the landing stage and might well be tending to the boat in which Turner was rowed.

Church, Mountains, Etc. (?Alpnach) 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/D33158

On the road nearing Alpnach Turner made a second sketch on the same page, showing the church, against the background of the upper valley. To the left three rounded shapes look somewhat like figures labouring under large loads. The objects are inscribed in very shaky writing [Turner was probably riding on a char or cart] ‘Hay Sax’. It seems possible that these are donkeys or even field labourers carrying loads of hay to the shelter of barns in the village.

At the top of the page Turner has written “Aus Shussler”. He had presumably enquired after accommodation and been directed to the Schlussel [The Key] at Sarnen, a mile and a half beyond Alpnach.  This was specifically mentioned by Murray’s guide as the main halt in the area. Its one great virtue seems to have been its location as a springboard towards the Brunig. As for other virtues Murray was very dry: ‘not very good, or clean.’

Church, Mountains, Etc. (?Alpnach) 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/D33158

Next: By char to Sarnen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s