One of Ruskin’s most famous watercolours, The Walls of Lucerne typifies what is most appealing to modern eyes about his best work, which combines small patches of precise detail and high colour with bold, loose washes of background tints and whole areas of paper left untouched or carrying only the beginnings of form. Although unfinished, in the sense of a conventional presentation watercolour, it captures what interested Ruskin: the sweep of the town walls, the contrast of the white tower against the deep blue of the sky, and the small pockets of detail of the balconies, vines, creepers. This treatment of subjects becomes characteristic in his work of the 1860s.

This is a faithful view of the wall linking the Dachliturm, in the centre, with the Allenwindenturm beyond, and may have be that from the Schweizerhof, Ruskin’s favoured hotel.


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