Joseph Mallord William Turner

Aros Castle, Sound of Mull

1831

Not on display

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 91 × 153 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D26954
Turner Bequest CCLXXIV 10 a

Catalogue entry

Based on Turner’s inscription at the left of this page, David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan have identified the two sketches on this page as depicting Aros Castle near Salen on the southern shore of the Sound of Mull.1 Although the sketches are small and slight, the general shape of the ruins and the headland on which they stand are correct from both angles. The larger sketch at the upper centre of the page is a view from the south-east, made as Turner’s boat approached the castle on its journey up the Sound of Mull on the way to Skye. After passing the castle the artist turned the book to the right to make another sketch, this time from the north with the hills behind it.
The castle in both sketches looks quite different from William Daniell’s Arros Castle, Isle of Mull 1813–23 (aquatint, Tate T02809). This is because Daniell’s print was from inland to the north-west, and because he exaggerated both the height of the cliffs and the height of the castle walls.
Turner’s interest in Aros Castle, along with the other castles that line the Sound of Mull, is in part a symptom of his habit of drawing almost every castle he encountered. However, it may also support the idea during his exploration of the Western Isles he was interested in recording antiquities associated with the Lords of the Isles. While he was commissioned to collect views of some of these for Scott’s The Lord of the Isles (1815), namely Loch Coruisk and Fingal’s Cave, he collected further associated subjects either as alternatives, or for his own interest (see Sound of Mull no.1 Sketchbook Introduction). Although Aros Castle was built by the MacDougalls, it later passed into the hands of the MacDonalds, and was used as an occasional base by the Lord of the Isles.
Turner may have made further sketches of Aros Castle on the inside back cover of this sketchbook. He sketches Aris and the Sound of Mull again in the Staffa sketchbook, probably on his return journey to Oban (Tate D26839; Turner Bequest CCLXXIII 50a).

Thomas Ardill
March 2010

1
David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner on the Isle of Skye 1831’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, [folios 6, 30.]

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