Joseph Mallord William Turner

Bemerside Hall


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 x 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVII 83

Catalogue entry

This sketch is of Bemerside (a sixteenth-century peel tower converted in the eighteenth century to a manor house) is the only drawing that Turner made of the house, and formed the basis for his watercolour design to illustrate volume 5 of Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works: Bemerside Tower circa 1832 (private collection).1 Turner visited Bemerside on 6 August 1831 on his return journey from Smailholm to Abbotsford where he was staying with Sir Walter Scott. John Gilbert Lockhart’s account of the day, repeated by Walter Thornbury, has been shown to be inaccurate by the diary of Robert Cadell who was also among the visiting party.2
Turner’s view is from the east of the house and includes a carefully rendered Spanish chestnut tree to the left of the building with Scott’s carriage parked along the front. At the top left of the page Turner has carefully recorded a detail of one of the four corner turrets. To its right, on folio 80 verso (D26073; CCLXVII 82a), he has drawn the peculiar sundial that stood to the left of the house and which he included in the foreground of his design for Scott. That vignette illustration was closely based on this sketch. The only changes were to compress the composition slightly to fit it into the vignette format, and to push the house back to include the sundial and figures in the foreground.
The sketch continues very slightly onto folio 80 verso, where trees and bushes to the right of the house are depicted.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.428 no.1079
See Finley 1972, pp.371–3; see also p.381 for Cadell’s diary entry.

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