Joseph Mallord William Turner

Bass Rock; the Coast of North Berwick and Dunbar


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 99 × 159 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXV 6

Catalogue entry

This page contains three sketches of the rocks and coast around Dunbar and North Berwick. The drawing at the top of the page, which continues on the page above (D13330; CLXV 7a), probably depicts the Bass Rock as seen from the ‘south’ as the inscription below it indicates, and may have been made as Turner sailed or rowed round the island. While the drawing does not capture the rock from its most distinctive angle, the information contained on this page would prove useful when Turner made his watercolour, Bass Rock, circa 1824 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight)1 from a number of sketches gathered in 1818 and 1822. This sketch clearly shows the fortifications on the island (also visible on folio 8; D13335; CLXV 8) that Turner included in his watercolour, engraved for Scott’s Provincial Antiquities.
As in folio 3 verso (D13326; CLXV 3a), Turner used this sheet to draw what he saw both ahead and behind him. As he approached the Bass Rock by boat he moved further away from the shore and would have been able to see more of the coastline which he recorded in the two sketches at the bottom of this page. The middle sketch probably shows Tantallon Castle with its natural defences on the seaward side. The sketch at the bottom of the page may show the rocks at Dunbar with the ruins of Dunbar Castle that Turner drew numerous times in all three 1818 Scottish sketchbooks, including a long sequence from close up in the Scotch Antiquities sketchbook (Tate D13615–D13640; Turner Bequest CLXVII 17a–32).

Thomas Ardill
October 2007

Wilton 1979, p.426 no.1069.

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