Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ardtornish Castle, Sound of Mull


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 201 × 125 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXX 82

Catalogue entry

Across this page and folio 81 verso (D26596), drawn with the sketchbook inverted, are about a dozen sketches of Ardtornish Castle on the shore of Morvern in the Sound of Mull. If the sketches were made from top left to bottom right then they record an approach to the castle from the south, passing the castle to the west and continuing past it to the north. The sketches were therefore made on Turner’s outward journey from Oban to Skye.
Although Turner never made a finished watercolour or painting of Ardtornish Castle, it is evident from the number of sketches he made, across several sketchbooks, that he considered making something of the subject. When he had discussed with Sir Walter Scott and his publisher Robert Cadell what subjects to illustrate for the Lord of the Isles volume of the new edition of the poet’s Poetical Works, ‘Artnornish with a rainbow’ was one of the subjects considered.1 Ardtornish had probably been officially dropped by the time Turner came to drawn it, as it is not among a list of chosen subjects that the artist wrote in the inside front cover of the Abbotsford sketchbook (Tate D40995; Turner Bequest CCLXVII). However, the fact that it was under consideration may have made Turner intrigued enough to make sure he collected a number of useful sketches.
The studies of the castle therefore begin at the top of the current page with a sketch of a shoreline that continues on folio 81 verso. There is no sign of the castle in this sketch which probably shows the coast of Morvern. The castle first appears in the second sketch, (continuing slightly on folio 81 verso) which shows the ruin on Ardtornish Point from the Sound of Mull to the south. We get a little closer in the third sketch and the shape of the building becomes apparent. Fourth down is a small study of the ruin from the south. Across the upper centre of the page is the continuation of a sketch from 81 verso of Ardtornish Point with the castle. Turner’s boat drew alongside the castle and there are two studies at the centre of the page of the castle from the south-west and west. It is seen straight on from the west in the second sketch from the bottom (continuing of 81 verso) and from the north-west at the bottom of the page. There is a very small sketch of the ruin of Ardtornish Castle on the inside back cover of this sketchbook (D41083).

Thomas Ardill
June 2010

Finley 1980, p.243.

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