Joseph Mallord William Turner

Craigmillar Castle

1818

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 112 x 186 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D13743
Turner Bequest CLXVII 85 a

Catalogue entry

Turner is known to have visited Craigmillar Castle with two of the other Provincial Antiquities contributing artists – Reverend John Thomson of Duddingston and High William Williams – to make sketches of the subject that was to be included in the publication. Thomson entertained the other two artists at his residence, the Manse, which was just a mile north of the castle, and Turner is reputed to have chased after Mrs Thomson when she snatched up one of his sketchbooks to examine his drawings, retrieving the book before she had time to open it.1
Perhaps Turner knew that Thomson, rather than he, would be commissioned for the Craigmillar view as he only made three sketches of castle. The present view looks over a bank or rough moss-covered wall towards the south-west corner of the castle with the central turn-of-the fifteenth century Tower House at the left, and the mid seventeenth-century West Range to the right. Although the castle had by then lost its roofs the stonework was in 1818, and still is, in remarkably good condition. To the left of these main structures is the wall of the enclosed west garden, and beyond that part of the perimeter wall. There are two further sketches of Craigmillar in this sketchbook on folios 74 verso and 77 (D13707, D13710; CLXVII 67a, 68a).
At the bottom left of the page are inscriptions referring to ‘Scotch work’ and ‘Rhine work’. These numbers are presumably proposed dimensions for two projects that Turner was engaged in while he was using this sketchbook: the Provincial Antiquities publication, and a proposed but unrealised series of prints of views along the Rhine with W.B. Cooke, John Muuray and J.C. Allen.2 However the numbers do not match either the watercolours made of these projects or the engravings after them. ‘6 by 7 3/4’ inches is smaller than the average 7 by 10 inches of the Provincial Antiquities watercolours, and the average 10 by 13 inches of the final engravings. The proposed Rhine Work dimensions, ‘11 by 6 3/4’ are closer to the average 7 by 11 1/2 inches of the watercolours known to have been prepared for the unrealised projects. The actual dimensions of the Provincial Antiquities watercolours is given in the inscription at the back of this sketchbook, ‘6 1/2 by 9 1/2’ (D40916), presumably made at a later date when Turner had settled on a format for the paintings.

Thomas Ardill
April 2008

1
Katrina Thomson, Turner and Sir Walter Scott: The Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 1999, p.28.
2
For more about the Rhine project see Dr Cecilia Powell in Martin Butlin, Evelyn Joll and Luke Herrmann, The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford, 2001 pp.262–3.

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