Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches of Skye, Eigg and Rum from the Sound of Arisaig

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: 91 x 153 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D26955
Turner Bequest CCLXXV 1

Catalogue entry

The three sketches on this page have been identified as depicting views made from the deck of a steamboat on its approach to Arisaig from the south, although several possibilities have been offered for individual identifications.1 Drawn across the inside of the page (with the gutter at the top) is an inscribed sketch of a shaded island or headland with peaks behind it. David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan have suggested that the inscription may read ‘Arisaig Bay’, meaning Loch na Ceall, although it could equally read just ‘Arisaig’. The authors have suggested that this sketch shows the promontory Rubh’ Arisaig with the mountains of Skye in the background, though they also point out that it bears a resemblance to the Isle of Muck with Rum beyond. Of the two suggestions, the former makes the closer match, especially the distant mountains which closely resemble the Black Cuillins as seen from this point. The two peaks of Ruinsival and Ainshval on Rum form a distinctive appearance that the present sketch does not closely resemble.
With the sketchbook inverted are two further sketches, the first of which is inscribed ‘Egg’ and ‘Rum’. Curiously, Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan, in consultation with ‘an authority on the island’, claim that ‘the main island is the wrong shape for Eigg’, asking ‘whether one may dare to think that Turner had got his identification wrong.’2 The answer in this case is that he had not, as the hump at the left of the island is easily identifiable as An Sgurr, an ‘inselberg’, an abruptly rising rock hill at the south of the island, the eastern end of which is known as the Nose of Sgurr. The rest of the island and Rum to its right are sketched with less care, which may have led to the confusion. There are further sketches of Eigg and Rum on the reverse of this page (folio 1 verso; D26956).
The final sketch on the page is described by the authors as looking like the southern coast of Ardnamurchan with cumulus cloud above it, although it could be a headland in the distance.

Thomas Ardill
March 2010

1
David Wallace–Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner on the Isle of Skye 1831’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, [folio 7].
2
Ibid.

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