Joseph Mallord William Turner

Arthur’s Seat from Across Duddingston Loch


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 59 × 96 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXV 7

Catalogue entry

This view of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh was taken from the south side of Duddingston Loch. Across the loch to the right, peeping above the trees is the tower of Duddingston Kirk where Turner’s acquaintance Revd John Thomson was the vicar. Turner met Thomson, who was also a landscape painter, during his visit to Scotland in 1818 in connection to the publication Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery in Scotland, to which the reverend was also contributing illustrations. Below the church is an octagonal structure known as Thomson’s Tower. The ground floor of the structure was used by the Duddingston Curling Society, while the top floor housed Thomson’s studio.
Turner apparently attended a party at Duddingston in September 1831 before returning to London.1 However, the current sketchbook seems not to have been in use at this time. Instead Turner may have visited the Manse at Duddingston on an earlier occasion during the tour, probably on 15 August when he visited Blackwood Hill (folio 63 verso; D25757), and perhaps Craigmillar Castle (folio 42 verso; D25719) with Robert Cadell as all three sites are close by.
Turner sketched the church tower and Thomson’s Tower again at the top right of the page. The main sketch also continues to the left on folio 6 verso (D25653), and there is another sketch of Arthur’s Seat from the same place on folio 19 verso (D25675).
Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, p.255 note 18.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

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