View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
This sketch has formerly been mis-identified by Finberg as showing the ruins of Dundrennan Abbey, which lies about twenty-three miles to the south-west of Dumfries.1 In fact, it shows Lincluden Collegiate Church (often known as Lincluden Abbey), which is situated about a mile from the centre of Dumfries at its northern outskirts, where the Cluden Water branches off the River Nith. The subject was included in a list of possible sites for illustration to the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders volumes of Scott’s Poetical Works drawn up in March 1831, and included again in a revised list of July.2 However, it did not make it into the final list, presumably because of Scott’s dissatisfaction with the subject rather than the potential of Turner’s sketches. This is because Turner made almost a dozen studies from all angles, many with great picturesque potential.
Over four pages Turner studied the architecture of the ruins inside and out and from every angle (folios 53 verso–55 verso; D25866–D25870), before turning to the back of the sketchbook to utilise four pages that he had previously tinted with grey wash. Using pencil lines and shading, as well as scraping out, he experimented with a composition showing the remains from across the Cluden Water (folios 89 verso, 90 verso, 91 verso and 92 verso; D25922, D25924, D25926, D25928).
The drawing on the present page uses the most intact parts of the church to create a pleasing composition. The view was taken from the foot of the earth mound that once formed the motte of Kirkhill Motte (or Lincluden Castle) to the south-east, and shows the choir with the south transept to the left. Trees frame the composition on either side. There is a sketch of part of the choir and transept on folio 54 (D25867).