Falls of Schaffhausen (Val d’Aosta) (c. 1845)

It is unknown whether this painting is a study of atmospheric effects, complete in itself, or a background field of colour and texture awaiting finishing touches. Turner regularly sent incomplete canvases to the Royal Academy or British Institution exhibitions, then finished the pictures in a last-minute frenzy, often using the so-called Varnishing Day prior to an exhibition’s opening to add vital details that made clear an intended subject. This painting has long been thought to depict the Val d’Aosta in the Italian Alps, in the Piedmont region just across the border from Mont Blanc,France. Recently, however, Turner scholars have proposed that it shows the falls on the Rhine river at Schaffhausen, a town in northern Switzerland that Turner visited in 1841.

This work is currently on display on Level 2 at NGV International.