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Prue Bishop's J M W Turner Research Projects

Project 2: The Northern Part of Turner's 1844 Tour of Switzerland

For in-depth reading, please consult Prue Bishop's research paper in the May 2016 British Art Journal.

The original Turner sketches are all part of the Turner Bequest 1856 held on behalf of the public by Tate Britain.


Heidelberger Journal Fremdenliste

Extract from the Heidelberg Visitor Records courtesy of the Heidelberg City Archive.

The above extract from a Heidelberger Journal Fremdenliste records that a Turner and a Fownes stayed at the most expensive hotel in the city called the Prinz Karl for the night of 26/27 August 1844. There are two more entries like this, suggesting a stay from Saturday 24th; leaving on Tuesday 27th.

We speculate that Mr Fownes may have been George Fownes, elected a Fellow of the Royal Society London the following year who at the time was Secretary to the Chemical Society of London that had been formed in 1841 and that was renting premises in Johns Street from the Society of Arts.



Basel Tagblatt der Stadt

Extract from Basel's Visitor Records courtesy of Basel University Library (Rent = Rentier: a person of independent means).

There are two entries in the Tagblatt der Stadt Basel recording that a Mr Turner stayed at the Hotel de la Tete d'Or, mentioned in Murray's Handbook for Switzerland 1838, arriving on Monday 26th August and leaving on Wednesday 28th August 1844.

Turner therefore left Heidelberg a day earlier than recorded there, possibly because it was Mr Fownes that left on the recorded day.

To travel from Heidelberg to Basel during a normal day would have been too quick for a steamer or diligence and suggests that Turner made the journey by two train services: the just opened Heidelberg to Kehl, and then the longer-established Strasbourg to the French side of the Swiss border at Basel.

Switzerland had no railway services at all in 1844.


Basel to Baden by diligences would have taken 12 to 14 hours and so could be completed in a day. One of the major stops was at Rheinfelden where Turner made pencil sketches of the bridge and its surroundings that he had previously sketched during his first Swiss tour 42 years earlier in 1802. The resulting 1844 watecolours show that his interest on this occasion centered on salmon-fishing associated with a purpose-built riverside installation. In our British Art Journal research paper we show how this story comes together, and a conclusion is drawn that a person observing Turner's paintings should engage in a process of communication in order to puzzle out and finally understand what they are about.  Above all, for the observer that does properly engage in that process, Turner transmits a sense of place and time; of a mystery; of an event; of a story. This process offers the possibility of going beyond that of illustration.

Baden Switzerland's Tagblatt

Above: Extract from Baden Switzerland's Visitor Records courtesy of Baden City Archive

A series of records in Baden's Tagblatt informs us that a Mr Turner from England and a Mr Gaget of St Pèray [sic] arrived on Wednesday 28th August and left on Wednesday 4 September 1844.


Mr Gaget's Calling Card

The above calling card very likely belonged to our Mr Gaget, a wine dealer selling French St Péray sparking wine that at the time was more highly regarded than Champagne and therefore a very fashionable and presumably expensive drink.

Baden's Stadhof Hotel Courtyard

Above: The interior courtyard of Baden Switzerland's Staadhof Hotel, a lithograph by Johannes Ruff after a watercolour by Jacob Mayer-Attenhofer who was the proprietor of the next-door hotel. Courtesy of Baden City Archive.

Der Begleiter published in 1840 states in our summary translation: "The Staadhof is among the very best spa-hotels in Baden. The unusually large and gated inner courtyard is set out with trees and flowers and offers comfortable and shady seating, and the bathing areas are spacious and not at all hemmed in as in other spa-hotels. Rooms may be ventilated without the impediment of spa-vapours. The considerable number of baths offers convenient availability not only for each family, but for each room, so that individual guests may bathe in complete seclusion for as long as they like, free from disturbances. The room sizes and fitments vary according to the price paid and with the choice of view: into the courtyard, over the River Limmat or into the street. The general manager Mr Suter personally ensures that the quality of the table service, room service and the overall cleanliness are of the highest order, and this is borne out by clients’ testimonies of overall satisfaction."

Turner was relaxing here with Europe's well-to-do, and there can surely be no doubt that at this stage in his life he had acquired all the necessary social skills to be a popular socialiser, espcially with the ladies.

That he stayed a week suggests that he had booked well ahead of his visit, and that he was probably here for health reasons, although it is well-known that his preference was anyway to stay in spa-hotels.


In the research paper we identify several sketchs of Baden for the first time. Here, we will concentrate on two of these sketches that lead to an already identified watercolour, and we consider Turner's working method when here in Baden and provide a deeper understading of this particular watercolour.

A Turner sketch of Baden from his little pocket notebook

Turner's lager loose-sheet sketch of Baden from Ennetbaden

The above sketch (D32817 CCCXXV page 34 verso) is tyical of a number of the newly identified sketches of Baden in Turner's little pocket notebook whose pages are only 9 x 11 cm.

Turner also had with him much larger loose sheets of paper roughly 19 x 28 cm such as the one above (D34239 CCCXLII folio 47) that we also identify as Baden for the first time.

Baden from Ennetbaden's Goldwand Vinyards

Baden City, Castle and Covered Wooden Bridge in the background, with the group of top Spa Hotels and River Limmat in the foreground, viewed from Ennetbaden's Goldwand Vinyards.
(D35137 CCCXLIX page 13 23x33cm Pencil, watercolour and pen)

[This, and all the other original Turner work shown here forms part of Turner's Bequest that is held on behalf of we the public by Tate Britain that may be viewed there by appointment:. please see their web site at for details]

Back in his rooms at the Staadhof, Turner would have had plenty of space to spread out his materials, with large windows providing plenty of light. He appears to have re-constituted the palette of watercolour washes that he had used earlier in Germany. He would then have applied the washes to the Rheinfelden scenes, very likely adding a couple of the more misty-types of scene to his collection from memory.

He would then have turned to a further sheet to start on his Baden watercolour collection by transferring views in pencil from that small sketchbook mentioned above and also from the larger individual sheets, re-jigging the scenes where he felt necessary to bring forward important items that would be virtually lost in say a photograph. Finally, he added watercolour washes. These bring the scenes to life for us, giving us that all-important sense of 'place', and even helping the observer to assemble a story.

In the above case of this particular watercolour (along with D34239 that is not illustrated here), we may engage in the process of communication and arrive at a story such as the following. But I emphasise that it is the observer that constructs the story; the artist provides only the 'clues'.  So your story may be different.  Mine is based on having additionally walked this route.

Turner has set out from his luxury spa-hotel that is centre-left in the foreground, crossed the nearby bridge over the River Limmat and is climbing up through the famous Goldwand (golden-wall) Vinyards with some friends from the hotel that we see at the bottom of the picture. It is early morning and, after recent rain, the sudden warmth of the newly-risen sun is causing mists to rise from both the river and the still-wet ground. The D34239 picture takes up the story.  It is now warmer and the party of walkers find themselves surrounded by hot vinyards. It has been quite a climb, and they take a break. In this second picture, Turner's colours are noticeably 'warmer'.

We could even go on to speculate that he is with Mr Gaget the wine dealer who explains all about the vinyards and their resulting wine. Maybe they meet the owners - whose descendants still grow very high quality vines here today.

Above all, Baden from these slopes looks magnificent, so we may simply choose to relax and enjoy this very special landscape view.



Turner loved to set puzzles, and in one of the 1844 sketchboks we came across a lovely example that is in words rather than his more usual pictures. This is fully explained in our British Art Journal article. Here, I will focus on just one aspect that you may enjoy thinking through for yourselves. Turner has just 'passed over the Alps'; actually the Brunig Pass between Lucerne and Meiringen, and he adds a little rhyme that in addition to a date includes the words Hannibal and Fombey.

We contend (thanks to our colleague Christoph Schneider) that this is a reference to The Art of Pluck by Edward Caswall that has a six-page dedication to his colleague Henry Formby that had been published just the year before Turner's Swiss tour. Even today, these tales about Oxford University students making mistakes in their work is most amusing. Download your free copy say from

I should explain that for a notable mistake, a student would be awarded a 'Pluck'. In this way, the least performing students would gain a special student status by achieving many 'Plucks'. The book is therefore a collection of the many ways in which one might come by a rather large number of 'Plucks'.

Here's one of the references to Hannibal (re-formated to help you read it easily) that you will understand even if like me you are not a Latin scholar:

And whereas Livy hath the following sentence,
Hannibal Alpes transivit summa diligentia,
which meaneth,
Hannibal passed over the Alps as fast as he could
so let him who desireth a Pluck, departing from this method,
construe it thus,
Hannibal passed over the Alps on the top of a diligence.

All I can say is that for those of us that appreciate words visually, this is brilliantly amusing, and certainly worth a 'Pluck'.

Given the 'Hannibal' context in which Turner writes his own rhyme, we suggest that his 'Sept 3' may be using the Roman calendar i.e. the third 'marker' in September: the so-called 'Ides'. This would make the date the 13 September 1844 and resolve the difficulty that he was in Baden on what we would call the 3rd.

Some may wish to take this further than we did in our research paper. They would note that The Art of Pluck was published around the time that a certain John Ruskin graduated from Oxford University with a 'double 4th' .......   One could also bring in  Turner's watercolour of the Lungerersee that J. Ruskiin wasn't too happy about. But I will leave further speculation to you the reader.

I have now also explored the next part of Turner's 1844 tour, identifying many previously unknown sketches and watercolours: Haslital, Rosenlaui, Grindelwald, Interlaken and the Lakes of Brienz and Thun. I therefore hope that I will eventually have the opportunity to inform you about what I found in this important part of his journey, providing titles for some very interesting work.


We now pick up Turner's 1844 tour in Solothurn where he probalby stayed the night. One of the sketches may be from his hotel window. He would have found this small city fulll of impressive examples of baroque architecture, with many memorable churches, fountains and fine buildings.

Turner now took out the last of seven large sketchbooks that he had brought from England and made a sketch of Solothurn. This sketchbook is entitled The Between Olten and Basel Sketchbook that we shall call the Olten Sketchbook. All the sketches are in pencil, with no added colour, even though the paper is the same large Whatman 1844 paper as used for all the earlier watercolour sketches of this tour. At the time of publishing our research findings and to date (May 2016), according to the official Tate on-line Turner Catalogue none of these sketches has been identified previously.

Solothurn's Basel Gateway


Solothurn's Basel Gateway today


On the left is one of many tiny Turner sketches of Solothurn that according to the Tate on-line Catalogue remain unidentified (May 2006).

Here we see the most unusual shape of the Baseltor or Basel Gate that dates back to the 16th Century. The cathedral tower is still there, and indeed the bells inside are the same proud possessions of the city. Should you ever visit the historic old-town of Solothurn, then, when your hear the bells, recall that Turner would have heard the same sound.


In both 1841 and 1844, Turner made multiple pencil sketches of the settings and details of both the Klus (Alt Falkenstein) and the Neu Falkenstein strategic entrances from Basel and the north to the main plain of Switzerland. Full details are reported in our research paper.

Turner - Neu falkenstein from the West

Neu Falkenstein ruined castle - 1844
D35158 CCCL-page 4

D33158 - camparative photo

Neu Falkenstein ruined castle - 2014
photo © John Lumby 20140512-5617

The local town where he probalby stayed the night is Balsthal; a major stopping place at the time for diligence services. We see from the map opposite that it is the junction for two passes north to Basel, and the east-west diligences called in here too.

From Balsthal it is only a short walk along a former Roman road to tiny St-Wolfgang that lies below the ruined Castle of Neu Falkenstein. Nevertheless to reach his northerly and southery viewing points required some climbing.

The map opposite shows the 7 points from which he made pencil sketches of the castle and its surroundings.

In comparing the above sketch with today's view, we appreciate the amount of detail that he included in these large pencil sketches. This sketch clearly shows St-Wolfgang Chapel that is still there today, but hidden by bushes in our photo. The road has the same curve and a small river is on the right. He's moved the castle nearer the edge of the drop, but then when I painted this view I did the same! The scene is better balanced with the castle about 1/3 from the left-hand side.

But was his interest really the castle, or was it the strategic setting? Such a comprehensive recorded study seems excessive if the aim was simply to arrive at the best viewpoint. And he had already made many of his usual small yet very informative sketches of this area in a small sketchbook back in 1841.

Turner's 7 viewpoints of Neu Falkenstein Castle

Turner sketched 7 large views of the Neu Falkenstein ruined castle in his Olten Sketchbook, each marked on the map with a 'T'.


The Olten Sketchbook contains four large pencil drawings of Aarburg Church and Citadel. In contrast to Turner’s usual practice, we have found no precursor pocket-sized or intermediate sketches. On arriving here in 1844, he would have found this very small town heavily engaged in the final stages of re-construction following a devastating fire in 1840 that had engulfed half the town and spread up wooden steps to the church that was also destroyed. All the inns had been lost, although the citadel was spared. In view of these detailed drawings, we assume that he stayed here at least one night, and if we include the Olten drawings at the end of this book, he probably stayed here two nights.

We identify these views here and in our research paper for the first time.


Turner - Aarburg citadel from the nw 1844

Aarburg Citadel from the NW 2014

Aarburg Citadel from the SE 1844

A comparative view of the Citadel from the south-east

In comparing the pairs of above images we see that Turner drew this Citadel in detail from both sides.

Aarburg Church and Citadel from the W 1844

Aarburg Church and Citadel from the W 1844

Each of the two views above is from the bridge there at the time. In Turner's sketch we see a curved line on the right; this is one of the wires supporting the suspension bridge. You will also see that Turner is further to the left, but today this would be over the water! In Turner's day, the bridge arrived right next to the large building by the river and was quite narrow. Our viewpoint would have been from the right-hand edge of Turner's bridge.

Aarburg from the Suspension Bridge 1844

Aarburg from the Bridge 2014

We believe that Turner was the first artist to record this view with the new church. The towers had only been completed the previous year, and it would be the following year before the interior was finished. Being new, the entire church must have looked just as splendid then as it does today.

In a Christmas letter to his friend F H Fawkes, Turner wrote, "I went however to Lucerne and Switzerland, little thinking or supposing such a cauldron of squabbling, political or religious, I was walking over.

This implies that during his tour he became very well aware of the dire situation that centred on religious differences and certain events. Indeed, his tour included both the Confederate side (that included Bern, Solothurn, Aargau and Basel), and a strongly Catholic side centred on Lucerne and Fribourg that the following year formed the Sonderbund (Special Alliance).

This potential flashpoint was set in the context of the wider and serious instability in the rest of Europe. Events in Switzerland were being closely monitored by France from the west, Austria from the east and above all by Prussia from the north that ordered its Neûchatel territory to remain neutral. In 1847, tensions led to the Sonderbund War that resulted in a quick victory for the confederate side under General Dufour leading to Switzerland’s 1848 Constitution and the birth of the modern confederate Swiss state. But in 1844, such a positive outcome could not have been predicted and it could have embroiled the whole of Europe.

Regardless of his actual motivations, there can be no doubt that in taking several days to make detailed drawings of the setting of the strategically important Klus / Neu Falkenstein area and the huge Aarburg fortification, Turner was recording information that would have been of keen interest to any army considering an intervention from the north.


Sketch of Olten by JMW Turner

Today's comparative view from very close to the same location

Please view the above 2 images and compare Turner's sketch D35168 Olten Sketchbook page 14 with our view below in August 2015. Turner made a second sketch of Olten on page 5 of his sketchbook that is of broadly the same view but from further away. As Tate's on-line database has no titles for these sketches, this is the first time their subjects have been formally identified. The sketch on his page 11 may also be of Olten.

The above photo is taken from a private residence that has an elevated patio right on the edge of the river. The only downside is the railway bridge!


At this early stage in our Turner Swiss research studies, we have yet to gather broad enough information to arrive at firm conclusions. Nevertheless, certain interesting points would seem to be emerging.

By 1844, Turner had become one of the most seasoned of European travellers, and one gains the impression of a gentleman at ease with all levels of society who enjoys both the social scene and studying his landscapes.

He would seem to have been very well prepared and have planned ahead. For instance, it is likely that he had booked his week in Baden well ahead of time. His choice of the Staadhof is also understandable as it was clearly the one catering for the relatively rich English.

At the Staadhof he would have had every facility available to ensure easy compliance with the demanding social norms of the day. There is no doubt in my mind that the presence of ladies would have ensured that he looked neat and tidy!

As to his sketching, it was very much business as usual, continuously adding to his thousands of sketches. It was these that would have underpinned what today we would call his knowledge base, largely held in his head.

Once back home he would have been uniquely qualified to give advice about the terrain he had viewed, backed up by his sketches as needed.

As for his skills as an artist, what we have seen here demonstrates his continuing ability to observe detail and record it accurately. In addition, his artistic sense of balance is always present.

As for the coloured watercolours, they fit in with little fuss. The washes are well chosen and applied in such a clever way that he naturally communicates a sense of place and – when needed – of an event.

Of those we have studied, they appear to me to be complete in themselves, often telling a story, although the viewer has to participate in the communication process.

His choice of colours shows an absolutely instinctive feel for complementaries. I do not see any exaggerated use of colour in his 1844 Continental tour that others associate with his work.

Indeed, I would place his observational skills in first place, his ability to create an atmosphere second, and his use of colour third, although all three are exceptional.


Our above research work could not have been completed without the help of many people. Our special thanks go to Christoph Schneider for his overall support and enthusiasm, but above all for digging out the dates of Turner's stay in Basel together with making the link with Caswall and Formby. Thanks also to Dr & Mrs Frey of Aarburg who gave us a whole day of their time and showed us Aarburg's outstanding museum; one of the best hidden gems in Swizerland. 'Saemi' in Olten invited us un-announced onto her patio, the only place from which we could have seen Turner's view of the old city; remarkable generosiy of spirit! And of course, without the usual enthusiasm and time of those in Tate Britain's Study Room we would not have had the chance to review hundreds of Turner's orignal works at first hand; their important contribution to our ongoing Turner research is greatly appreciated.

The above is only a very small part of our findings to date and a summary of our research paper in the May 2016 British Art Journal

Your interest and comments are welcome.

All above photos © John Lumby, and John & Prue Bishop.

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