William Callow began his career at the age of 11, when he was hired by the engraver Thomas Fielding to color prints and assist with aquatinting. The association, which became a formal apprenticeship in 1825 and included further training with one of Fielding’s brothers, the eminent watercolorist Copley Fielding, brought him to Paris in 1829. When the apprenticeship concluded in 1833, Callow opened his own studio, initially with another British expatriate working in the city, Thomas Shotter Boys, who encouraged the younger artist to concentrate on his watercolor studies. Success came quickly. After exhibiting a watercolor in the Salon of 1834, he was invited to give drawing lessons to the family of King Louis Philippe, a position that quickly earned him the offer of more commissions than he could handle. His connection with T. S. Boys led to an invitation to exhibit with the Society of Painters in Water Colours. He was elected an Associate of the Society in 1838, and the growing interest in his work in England encouraged him to return to London in 1841. Callow became a full member of the Society in 1848.
The sheet on view here was in all probability executed during one of three trips to Switzerland made by Callow between 1838 and 1846. The most likely date is 1840, when he is known to have spent some time painting on Lake Geneva, near Lausanne and Vervey, where such views of the towering Alps are common. Far from the kind of finished composition Callow would have presented for exhibition, this sketch is more of an aide-mémoire, made sur le motif and then tucked away for reference when he returned to his studio.