Joseph Mallord William Turner

Borthwick Castle

1818

Not on display
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 90 x 112 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D13503
Turner Bequest CLXVI 28

Catalogue entry

Turner seems to have found his preferred viewpoint of Borthwick Castle quickly, as the first two sketches in the Scotch Antiquities sketchbook (Tate D13723 and D13724; Turner Bequest CLXVII 75a and 76) and the all three in the present sketchbook (folios 28 verso and 29; D13504 and D13506) show the castle from the west or north-west. Other viewpoints recorded in the Scotch Antiquities sketchbook suggest alternative views, one of which was considered in a study in the Scotland and London sketchbook (Tate D13814; Turner Bequest CLXX 1), although many have a similar appearance due to the symmetry of the castle. The present view from the west is not dissimilar to the design of the 1818 watercolour, Borthwick Castle (Indianapolis Museum of Art, USA)1 with the castle positioned towards the centre of the composition, cottages below it to the left and hills beyond.
In this version of the subject, Turner has shown an undisturbed reflection of the castle in the water, showing that he must have visited the castle on a still day. Eric Shanes has noted that trees in a sketch of the castle in the Scotch Antiquities sketchbook (Tate D13723; Turner Bequest CLXVII 75a) are vertical, while in the watercolour they bend in a heavy gale.2 The sense of calm in this drawing, with its single bare tree, reflected castle, and unfussy composition, are in contrast with the drama of Turner’s final design.

Thomas Ardill
April 2008

1
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1060.
2
Eric Shanes, Turner’s Human Landscape, London 1990, p.11.

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