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Alexandre Calame, The Lake of Thun

Key facts
Full title The Lake of Thun
Artist Alexandre Calame
Artist dates 1810 - 1864
Date made 1854
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 59.1 × 78.1 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Henry Vaughan Bequest, 1900
Inventory number NG1786
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Lake of Thun
Alexandre Calame

This is a view of Lake Thun on the River Aare in the Berner Oberland (Bernese Highlands), Switzerland. The sunlit snowy peak in the distance has been identified as the Blümlisalp, but it also has some resemblance to the Jungfrau.

Raised near Lake Geneva, Calame knew the Swiss landscape well and soon became the leading Swiss landscape artist of his generation. Demand for his paintings was fuelled by the growing popularity of Switzerland, particularly the Alps, as a destination for tourists who especially valued the landscape’s restorative effects. This painting was commissioned by the British collector Henry Vaughan, who also owned important watercolours by Turner.

Completed in 1854, the painting shows a tranquil lake. The slight browning of some of the foliage suggests it may be late summer or early autumn. Calame painted the natural world with an almost scientific precision. He mostly used small precise brushstrokes to produce an extremely smooth picture surface that complements the calm water of the lake and the clarity of the pearly light.

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