Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dumblain Abbey, Scotland

c.1806–7

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

Medium
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 184 x 260 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D08157
Turner Bequest CXVIII C

Catalogue entry

Engraved:
Etching and mezzotint by Turner and Thomas Lupton, ‘Dumblain Abbey, Scotland.’, published Turner, 1 January 1816
The ‘abbey’ is now the parish church of Dunblane, Stirling, and is known as Dunblane Cathedral. The twelfth- and thirteenth-century building fell into partial disuse and ruin in the late sixteenth century following the 1560s Protestant reformation; the choir, beyond the present composition to the left (east), remained in use but the roof of the nave was not restored until the 1890s. Turner’s vantage point was to the north-west, with Allan Water in the foreground; there is now a railway bridge across the river just to the north, though this view remains unimpeded.
Turner’s Liber Studiorum composition is based on two pencil drawings – one in the Scotch Lakes sketchbook (Tate D03197, D03198; Turner Bequest LVI 145a–146), and the other in the Ruskin School Collection at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford,1 made on the return leg of Turner’s first tour of Scotland in 1801. The Oxford sketch was originally a leaf of the Smaller Fonthill sketchbook (some pages at Tate; Turner Bequest XLVIII); several other Liber designs were derived from the same book: Drawing of the Clyde (indirectly), Coast of Yorkshire and Rivaux Abbey (Tate D08122, D08129, D08154; Turner Bequest CXVI U, CXVII B, Z), and Solway Moss.2
The two pencil studies are from the same angle, the Ashmolean’s being larger and more detailed, though both are sketchy; Turner had recorded the shallow spire and more of the building and trees to the left of the tower, but truncated them in the Liber design and introduced another focus – the laundry activities on the river bank, possibly recorded on the spot with slight, cursive indications below the west end of the building in the Smaller Fonthill drawing.
Gillian Forrester makes a comparison with a painting by Richard Wilson, owned by Turner’s patron Dr Monro at about the time of Turner’s closest involvement with him: Tivoli, the Cascatelle and the ‘Villa of Maecenas’, circa 1752 (Dulwich Picture Gallery, London).3 Another version, now catalogued as from Wilson’s studio, was owned by Turner himself (Tate N05538).4 The similarities, limited to the general arrangement of buildings on a wooded hillside to the left and figures (artists in Wilson’s case) in the valley foreground, are perhaps only fortuitous echoes, though they are indicative of Turner’s idealising tendencies.
1
Herrmann 1968, p.91 no.70, pl.XLII E.
2
Rawlinson 1878, pp.107–8 no.52; 1906, pp.125–8 no.52; Finberg 1924, pp.205–8 no.52.
3
Forrester 1996, p.117.
4
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.314 no.545, pl.538, among ‘Works Formerly Attributed to Turner’.
5
Lectures on Landscape in Cook and Wedderburn XXII 1906, pp.36, 38.
6
Forrester 1996, p.162 (transcribed).
7
Rawlinson 1878, pp.107–15; 1906, pp.125–36; Finberg 1924, pp.205–24.
8
Pantzer 1963, pp.21–2 no.21.
9
Martin F. Krause, Turner in Indianapolis: The Pantzer Collection of Drawings and Watercolors by J.M.W. Turner and his Contemporaries at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis 1997, pp.106–[9] no.29, reproduced p.[107] (colour).
1
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

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