Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Sketch of Two Sitting Figures Surrounded by Sketches of Arran, East Tarbert and Knock Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 125 × 201 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXX 78

Catalogue entry

Because it fills the centre of the page with the other sketches fitted around it, the sketch of two sitting figures (drawn with the sketchbook held with the fore-edge at the top) was probably the first to be made on this page. The two figures wear coats and large hats and appear to be reading, the one on the right apparently holding a book or newspaper. They are evidently outside, and therefore perhaps waiting or resting. Beyond that, it is impossible to say who these people might be or where they are, except that they were drawn at some point after Turner left Edinburgh for Stirling (when he first used this sketchbook), but before he reached the mouth of Loch Fyne on his way to Islay via East Tarbert (when he made his next sketch on the page). We may speculate, from the orientation of the sketch on the page and the subject of two figures resting or waiting, that the drawing was made at the same time as Turner’s sketch of the landing at Inversnaid on Loch Lomond (folio 92; D26617). This would make these fellow travellers who were, like Turner, waiting at Inversnaid to take the steamboat down Loch Lomond. However, there is no further evidence for this speculation.
As mentioned above, the second sketch to be made on the page was executed at the mouth of Loch Fyne. This sketch, at the fore-edge of the page and drawn parallel to it, is inscribed ‘arran’ and shows the mountainous island from the mouth of the loch to the north. Turner made the sketch as he travelled by steamboat from Glasgow to Islay via the Firth of Clyde, the Kyles of Bute, Loch Fyne, across the Kintyre peninsula from East Tarbert (also sketched on this page) to West Tarbert and on to Port Askaig on Islay.1 There are further sketches of the Isle of Arran from this point on folio 66 (D26566).
With the sketchbook turned to the left is a sketch of East Tarbert on the Kintyre Peninsula with Tarbert Castle on a hill at the left. The view is therefore from the east of the town looking towards the mouth of East Loch Tarbert. Turner made a number of sketches of East Tarbert in this sketchbook when he passed through it on his way to and from Islay (see folio 88 verso; D26610).

Thomas Ardill
March 2010

The tour is discussed in David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner Round the Clyde and Islay – 1831’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files.
David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner on the Isle of Skye 1831’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, [folio 12].

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