Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Wooded Banks of the River Tilt at Blair Atholl

1801

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

Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 184 x 114 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D03141
Turner Bequest LVI 116 a

Catalogue entry

The subject is continued on folio 119 recto opposite (D03142; Turner Bequest LVI 117). Just as Turner manifests an unexpected fascination in this sketchbook with the trees in Taymouth Park (folios 98 verso–104 recto; D03102–D03113; Turner Bequest LVI 96a–102), so he devotes several pages from here to folio 123 recto (D03141–D03150; Turner Bequest LVI 116a–121) to the dark waters and overhanging trees of the rivers Garry and Tilt, which meet at Blair Atholl.
The artist was sufficiently impressed by this relatively modest subject matter to include a plate based on this drawing in his Liber Studiorum several years later, working up the pencil sketch on this opening in a watercolour design (Tate D08134; Turner Bequest CXVII G), engraved in 1811 as Near Blair Athol Scotland (Tate impressions: A00970–A00971). Turner scholar C.F. Bell considered that the drawing on folios 119 verso–120 recto (D03143–D03144; Turner Bequest LVI 117a–118) was also involved,1 though with little clear justification.
The Liber plate was categorised as ‘M’ for ‘Mountainous’, and has been thought hardly to merit that description;2 but it perhaps gives some clue to Turner’s feelings towards the spot: a peaty mountain river littered with large rocks and no doubt full of fish, as he, a keen angler, would appreciate, was as integral a feature of mountain scenery as the peaks themselves. In singling out the subject for treatment he signals a precocious response to the romanticising of Scotland that had begun in the novels of Jane Porter (1776–1850) and was still to be fully developed at the hands of Walter Scott (1771–1832) in his poems The Lay of the Last Minstrel, Marmion and The Lady of the Lake (1805, 1808, 1810).

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

1
Undated MS note by C.F. Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.148.
2
See Gillian Forrester, Turner’s ‘Drawing Book’: The Liber Studiorum, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1996, p.89.

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