Joseph Mallord William TurnerNovar House, Evanton 1831

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Artwork details

Artist
Title
Novar House, Evanton
Date 1831
MediumGraphite on paper
Dimensionssupport: 131 x 206 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D34797
Turner Bequest CCCXLIV 330
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Catalogue entry

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Novar House, Evanton 1831
D34797
Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 330
Pencil on off-white laid paper, 131 x 206 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ?‘Fyrish’ right, ?‘shore’ centre-right, ?‘river’ bottom-right
Inscribed in red ink by John Ruskin ‘330’ bottom-right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXLIV 330’ bottom-right
Blindstamped with the Turner Bequest stamp right-centre
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This loose-leaf sketch has been identified by David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan as a view towards Novar House near Evanton.1 The house itself is depicted at the right as a generalised outline surrounded by woods. Directly above the house is the hill Chnoc Fyrish, with the Fyrish Monument built by Hector Munro of Novar at its summit. To the left is Meann Chnoc with Creag Ruadh between the two hills. The hill at the right of the main sketch continues beneath at the bottom-left of the page.
There is water in the foreground, suggesting that the view is from across the Cromarty Firth near Craig Castle (see Tate D34845; Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 359). Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan have suggested that ‘Turner’s detail is too precise to make this a probable viewpoint’ arguing that it is likely to have been sketched from a closer point on the Evanton shore about a mile from the house. However, they concede that ‘the view can be seen from [...] across the Cromarty Firth’,2 and the water in the foreground is indisputable. Perhaps Turner sketched the view from across the water, filling in the details from closer to the house.
Turner made this sketch when he stayed at Novar House, visiting his friend and patron Hugh Munro. During his 1831 tour of Scotland he had travelled as far as Fort Augustus and Inverness to sketch subjects to illustrate an edition of Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works. Having planned to go so far north, he decided to take the opportunity to travel the extra thirty miles to Evanton before returning to Edinburgh via Aberdeen, telling Edward Finden that if he should want to write to him he should send a letter to ‘W. H. A. Monro [sic] Esquire [...] Novar House near Evanton North Britain’.3
Several sketches in the Inverness sketchbook record Turner’s journey from Inverness across the Black Isle peninsula to Evanton (Tate D27046–D27225; D41038–D41039 complete; Turner Bequest CCLXXVII). When he reached Novar he forsook his sketchbook, using sheets of writing paper instead, although he may have used his sketchbook occasionally. Although this is the only sketch that has been found of the house, there may be a drawing of the gates to the Novar estate (Tate D34845; Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 329), and several views of the Cromarty Firth that were taken from nearby (Tate D34845, D34858; CCCXLIV d 359, 370a). Of particular interest to Turner was the Black Rock Gorge just to the west of Novar (Tate D34791–D34794, D34848; Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 324–327, 361), and the Fyrish monument (Tate D34836, D34842; Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 353, 357). The artist also seems to have taken an excursion north towards Dornoch (Tate D34847, D34846; Turner Bequest CCCXLIV d 358, 360).
Although Turner did not work up any of the sketches he made around Evanton, Hugh Munro claimed that the idea for Turner’s oil painting Mercury and Argus 1836–40 (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa)4 had been suggested to him ‘by the coast of Ross-shire in the neighbourhood of his house at Novar’.5 However, no direct link has been made between any of his sketches around Evanton and Mercury and Argus, and it has been pointed out that ‘it is hard to detect the slightest trace of the Scottish topography’ in the painting.6

Thomas Ardill
May 2010

1
Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan 1994, p.14.
2
Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan 1994, p.14.
3
Turner to Edward Finden, 2 September 1931, John Gage, Collected Correspondence of J.M.W. Turner with an Early Diary and a Memoir by George Jones, Oxford 1980, p.145 letter 172.
4
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.217–19. no.367.
5
Alexander J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Second Edition, Revised, with a Supplement, by Hilda F. Finberg, revised ed., Oxford 1961, p.382.
6
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.218.

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On paper, unique (48,788)

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