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David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan identified this sketch of a waterfall as Foyers Lower Fall near the eastern shore of Loch Ness,1 further sketches of which have since been identified on folios 24–26 (D27008–D27012). For references to further sketches of the two waterfalls see folio 40 verso (D27034).
Although this is a smaller sketch than the others of the same view it is more confidently, if still quite rapidly, executed. The oval format with the drawing fading away at the edges is suggestive of Turner’s approach to vignettes and is somewhat similar in composition and appearance to his design for Rhymer’s Glen, Abbotsford circa 1834 (watercolour, National Gallery of Scotland),2 suggesting that this may be a composition study (perhaps made on the spot) rather than a simple sketch. Although there is no evidence to suggest that Turner had a commission to make a vignette illustration of the Falls of Foyers, he may have been struck by the suitability of the subject, perhaps reflecting on Robert Burns’s poem about the waterfall, Lines On The Fall Of Fyers Near Loch-Ness. Written with a Pencil on the Spot (1787).3
David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner’s 1831 Sketchbook T.B. CCLXXVI Fort Augustus’, [circa 1992–3], Tate catalogue files, [unpaginated]. The authors returned to the sketch several times, as their unpublished notes are dated November 1992, October 1993 and an implied (though unspecified) earlier date. One reason for returning to the sketch may have been the inscription ‘Linn’ or ‘Lia’ that Wallace-Hadrill apparently saw at the bottom of the sketch and suggested may have referred to Glenlia. The present author suggests that this is not writing at all, just scribbling, but even if Turner did inscribe Glenlia on this sketch it does not change the identification, as Glenlia is the nearest habitation to the Falls of Foyer.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.432 no.1119
An engraving of the waterfall was used to illustrate the works of Robert Burns in 1805, and was printed with lines from Burns’s poem. Engraved by John Greig after a painting by Alexander Nasmyth, Fyers, Upper Fall, for James Storer and John Greig, Views in North Britain, Illustrative of the Works of Robert Burns, London 1805.