Swiss Alps Mountain Studies
This series of watercolours we have for sale from an unsigned Alpine sketchbook dating from the early 1880s. Focusing on the snowy peaks and verdant green foliage of the valleys around the Mont Blanc mountain range in France and Switzerland, this collection is a testament to the allure of the Swiss landscape in the early years of the Victorian obsession with ‘Alpinism’ and athletic travel.
In the early nineteenth-century, Switzerland was not considered a desirable location for travel – though there were areas of wealth, the majority of the country was poor and lacked the infrastructure for tourism. After the improvement of the railways in the 1820s, easier access to Switzerland meant it became part of a wealthy gentleman’s ‘Grand Tour’, with mountaineering being considered a suitable athletic pursuit for young men of breeding, along with fencing and riding.
It was in the 1850s and 60s, however, that the ‘Golden Age of Alpinism’ and mountaineering cultivated a Victorian taste for travel to the Alps. The Alpine Club was founded in London in 1857, with its members accompanying Thomas Cook on one of his early expeditions into the Alps in 1863. Queen Victoria later cemented the fashion for Swiss travel with a visit to the country in 1868.
By the 1880s, when these works were produced, Switzerland had become a desired destination for many artists of the period, ranging from JMW Turner to John Singer Sargent. Brimming with a picturesque charm and a keen eye for graceful composition, these watercolours are a captivating part of Victorian travel and art history.