View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
With the sketchbook turned to the right, here are three sketches of Linlithgow Palace from across Linlithgow Loch to the north-east. The page is one of three that Turner used in the portrait format and divided into three horizontally, resulting in a series of seven sketches of Linlithgow Palace and Church, with two sketches of views nearby. The other two pages are from the Edinburgh 1818 sketchbook (Tate D13512 and D13513; Turner Bequest CLXVI 32a and 33), and Turner seems to have used the two books simultaneously, perhaps working out his rough designs on the Edinburgh pages before making more careful sketches here. The approach, not used for any other view of the castle, suggests that upon reaching this prospect of the palace, he resolved to develop a subject based upon it.
With a number of detailed studies from various angles already prepared, Turner was now able to concentrate on composition rather than having to record topography and architectural information. The key elements of the subject have been established with all seven of the sketches including Linlithgow Palace, the tower of St Michael’s Church, Linlithgow Loch and, in the distance, the Bathgate Hills. As he experimented with compositions Turner also began to include references to grazing cattle. These elements are all present in the 1821 watercolour of Linlithgow Palace, prepared for the Provincial Antiquities of Scotland (Manchester City Galleries),1 which corresponds closely to the composition of the middle sketch on the present page and the middle sketch of Edinburgh folio 32 verso, with the foreground modelled on the bottom sketch of the present page, and several other sketches.
The top sketch of this page is the most detailed of the three rapidly executed drawings, with the outline of the church and palace represented, and shading indicating that the east side of the buildings are in shadow, while the north sides are lit by the evening sun. We look over the banks of the loch, across the water with a small island of trees in the centre. As with most of the sketches the composition is framed on one side with a tree in the foreground. This sketch is taken from slightly to the north of the two below it, as the Bathgate Hills appear further to the right in the composition.