Turner Watercolour Achieves £2 Million at Auction

J.M.W Turner’s The Lake of Lucerne from Brunnen (c. 1840s)—one of the finest watercolours by the artist left in private hands—was sold for £2 million by Sotheby’s today (4 July).

The stunning Swiss landscape, painted by Britain’s favourite artist, fetched among the highest prices paid for a watercolour by the artist.

It was sold in the Old Master & British Works on Paper sale, whose proceeds totalled more than £5.5 million.

Created in the final years of Turner’s life, The Lake of Lucerne from Brunnen depicts one of the most dramatic landscapes in the Swiss Alps. It captures the picturesque village of Brunnen on the eastern shores of Lake Lucerne and was inspired by Turner’s trip to the region between 1841 and 1844.

The work, which is widely considered to be the pinnacle of Turner’s best achievements in the medium, was commissioned by the artist’s great patron Elhanan Bicknell to hang as a companion piece to the iconic Blue Rigi (1842), which achieved a record price at Sotheby’s in 2006 and now hangs in Tate Britain.

Works from Turner’s ‘late’ Swiss series, of which this is one, are regarded as the ‘climax of a lifetime devoted to the expression of light and colour.’

‘A privilege’

Mark Griffith-Jones, specialist, British watercolours, drawings and portrait miniatures at Sotheby’s, said: ‘It has been such a privilege to get to know this superb work—whose beauty and history are so captivating. Major watercolours from Turner’s late Swiss period are justifiably held in the highest regard and this was the most important work to have appeared on the market in more than a decade. We were thrilled to see it generate such excitement among private collectors and institutions alike.’

The Lake of Lucerne from Brunnen sold alongside seven other works by Turner, bringing the combined total of works by the British artist sold in the sale to £3,045,750.

Among the other Turner watercolours that fetched strong prices was a view of St. Mawes, Cornwall, and one the artist’s most important watercolours of the Isle of Wight. A further work by Turner—one of only two oil paintings of London remaining in private hands—will be offered at Sotheby’s later this evening.

Among the other highlights was a rare panorama of early-19th century London, which fetched £250,000. Measuring over six metres in length, this extraordinary vista of London, which offers a unique view of the city in the early-19th century, was unknown until very recently.

Highly finished with incredible detail and topographical accuracy, the drawing depicts an easily recognisable vista of London as seen from the tower of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster.

Read more on Arts & Collections about Sotheby’s record-breaking sale of a late Lucian Freud masterpiece. 

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