Joseph Mallord William Turner

Crichton Castle

1818

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

Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 112 x 90 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D13558
Turner Bequest CLXVI 55 a

Catalogue entry

Drawn with the book turned to the left, Turner has taken a view of Crichton Castle from the south-west, showing to its right the ruins of the stable block. The visible southern aspect of the castle is fifteenth and sixteenth century, though the original structure dates back to the late fourteenth century. Turner has included some architectural details such as doors and windows, as well as the buttresses of the stable block, and the block’s crow-step gables. To the right of the castle is a sketch of a ‘broken’ corbel, and Turner has indicated the number of these along the top of the south range: ‘4 15 2’, as he did for the west range and Borthwick Castle in the Scotch Antiquities sketchbook (Tate D13728 and D13724; Turner Bequest CLXVII 78 and 76).
This interest in architectural ornamentation is echoed in Scott’s description of the castle which he suggests ‘might offer admirable hints for the modern Gothic, now so frequently employed in architecture’.1 It is therefore surprising that Turner did not record any more of the ornamentation such as the anchor and cable design with which the pillars of the castle were engraved; perhaps he only had a short time available to record the castle.
There are three illustrations of Crichton Castle in the first number of the Provincial Antiquities with an accompanying description by Scott, and the second number of the publication included Turner’s illustration with another brief description by Scott of a ‘Distant view of Crichton Castle’. Despite the importance of the subject for the venture Turner took less than a dozen sketches of the castle (mainly in the Scotch Antiquities sketchbook, Tate D13728–D13734; Turner Bequest CLXVII 78–81). He did not make any finished on-the-spot designs as he did with Edinburgh from Calton Hill (Tate D13651–D13652; Turner Bequest CLXVII 39a–40), nor are there repeated variations of a favoured view as with Borthwick Castle (see Tour of Scotland 1818 Tour Introduction). In fact there are only three sketches of the castle from this viewpoint – the view chosen for Turner’s final watercolour design – of which this is the most detailed. Therefore, while the drawings on the next page of this sketchbook (folio 56; D13559) provided the composition for Turner’s watercolour of Crichton Castle, circa 1818 (The Morgan Library and Museum, New York),2 the present sketch provided Turner with the best visual record of its appearance.

Thomas Ardill
April 2008

1
Sir Walter Scott, Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland with Descriptive Illustrations by Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Vol.1, London and Edinburgh 1826, p.25.
2
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.425 no.1059.

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