American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Turner's Aig. du Dru

  • Notes
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1944

Turner’s Aig. du Dru. The wash-drawing in violet and sepia, used as the frontispiece of this issue, was secured when the Anderson collection of Turner’s work was dispersed in New York in 1941. It measures 12 × 19 inches and was probably done when Turner was at Chamonix in 1839. Turner made 18 visits to Switzerland in the period 1802-50, and John B. Anderson, Jr., in his book, The Unknown Turner, included the only known journal of one of his tours in the Alps (1839), from which the following is taken:

August, 1839. “Wednesday morning the mountain with an additional covering of snow, fallen during the night, a sharp frost, men busy watering the potatoes; Mont Blanc beautifully clear against a bright blue sky; the snow fell at times, but about midday, we ordered our mules, and crossing the long wooden bridge, kept to the valley of the Arve, someways, and then ascended the little path to the Montanvert, various attacks on the purses all the way up, an old man disabled by a fall from a mountain; an orphan family with some musical pipes, &c. The snow came thickly on, but to encourage us, the clouds soon passed over & the sun appeared, it proved a lovely evening; left our mules at the chalet on the top, and walked down to La mer de glace; a waterfall between two masses of ice, 300 ft. said the guide; a stone thrown by him down the chasm, did not touch the bottom of the ‘crevasse’ till I counted 12 slowly—the sun dispersing the vapoury clouds, which hung around the bases of the mountains, gave us glimpses to advantage of l’aiguille de dru in colour and shape these pinnacles of mountains are perfect; but the debris continually blowing over the glacier, communicates a dirty appearance. Mr. de Saussure first visited Chamounix in 1760—a large collection of minerals &c at the Chalet, where we had some bread & cheese. . . . I walked in the evening of the first day, to the handsome church, and wandered in the pretty field, all hands getting in the harvest.”

Sir Alfred East (A. J. 23, 617) accurately describes the mood of the drawing: “Turner in no instance painted mountains as mountains, but rather as the setting of them, the association of form and effects and the countless accompaniments which he used to further the end he had in view—the qualities which are never to be demonstrated by mere feet or fact.” John Ruskin and Josiah Gilbert are among other authorities with mountaineering knowledge who have discussed Turner’s Alpine landscapes, and one may also consult E. W. Bredt, Die Alpen und ihre Maler (1910), 141.

J. M. T.

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