Joseph Mallord William Turner

Oban Bay, with Groups of Figures

1831

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 116 x 186 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D26856
Turner Bequest CCLXXIII 59

Catalogue entry

Drawn on the pier at Oban, this sketch looks north across Oban Bay to Dunollie Castle (see folio 58; D26854) with a crowd of people getting on or off two steamers that are moored along the quay. The people include two figures with shoulder belts (baldrics), suggesting that they are in military uniform. Other figures are less distinct, though there is at least one female figure and several of the men wear Tam O’Shanter bonnets.
Turner himself boarded steamers at Oban which he used as a base to explore the islands of Skye, Mull, and Staffa, before departing by steamer for Inverness via Fort William. David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan speculate that one of the steamboats (identifiable by their funnels) may be ‘the little 52-ton Maid of Morven which was to take Turner to Staffa’.1 However, elsewhere in their notes they suggest that the sketch may have been made on Turner’s return from touring the Western Isles before departing for Inverness,2 as the sketch follows a series that record a journey east down the Sound of Mull from Tobermory (folios 48–57; D26833–D26852). Whenever the sketch was made, Turner captures the excitement of a trip to the remote western islands of Scotland.
Further studies of boats and figures at Oban are on folios 58–59 verso (D26854–D26857; CCLXXIII 58–59a).

Thomas Ardill
February 2010

1
David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner in Argyll in 1831: Inveraray to Oban’, Turner Studies, vol. 11, no.1, Summer 1991, p.25.
2
David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner on Mull and Staffa, 1831’ (unpublished manuscript), [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, folio 16.

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