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Mont Blanc, Glacier des Bossons, Chamonix

John Webber (1752 - 1793)

Oil on canvas

1788
  • About the work
    Location
    Country: Switzerland
    City: Berne
    Place: British Embassy

    After travelling on Captain Cook’s voyage to Cape Town and New Zealand from 1776 to 1780 as the official artist, London-based painter John Webber set off again on a European sojourn in 1787. He arrived in Paris by 1 June, where he stayed with his former art teacher, the engraver and art scholar Jean-Georges Wille (1715-1808). Webber remained in Paris for about a month. On 28 June, Wille recorded in his diary that Webber was departing for Bern, to visit his parents. Webber first travelled south to Lyon, continued to Geneva and journeyed along the traditional artery through Bonneville and Sallanche, to Chamonix, then a relatively isolated village, off the beaten track. Here, he made drawings of cascades, before reaching Mont Blanc, which he sketched several times. Two of Webber’s watercolours of Mont Blanc are now held in the British Library, London, while a third, probably made after his return, is in the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. The Whitworth watercolour shows virtually the same composition as this oil painting and may have been made to show to potential patrons.

    Webber exhibited this painting at the Royal Academy in 1789 as ‘View of Mont Blanc, with the Glacier des Bassons, Chamouni’.

  • About the artist
    John Webber was born in London, the son of a sculptor from Bern, Switzerland. He was sent back to Bern, aged five, to be raised by an aunt. In 1767 he was apprenticed to Johann Ludwig Aberli, before leaving for Paris to study at the Académie Royale and under Jean-Georges Wille. In 1775 he enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools in London and, in 1776, gained employment as draughtsman for Captain Cook’s third voyage. On his return his drawings were published as ‘A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean’ (1784). His subsequent Academy exhibits were initially all subjects from Cook’s voyages, but were later mainly landscape views of Britain, France, Switzerland and Italy. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1791. He died of kidney disease, aged just 41.
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  • Details
    Title
    Mont Blanc, Glacier des Bossons, Chamonix
    Date
    1788
    Medium
    Oil on canvas
    Dimensions
    height: 115.00 cm, width: 148.00 cm
    Acquisition
    Purchased from Agnew's, July 1962
    Inscription
    br: J Webber pinx. 1788
    Provenance
    With Agnew’s Gallery, London; from whom purchased in July 1962
    GAC number
    5837