Joseph Mallord William Turner

Bothwell Castle from the South-West and from the South


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 190 × 113 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIX 27 a

Catalogue entry

These two sketches of Bothwell Castle, drawn with the sketchbook turned to the right, seem to have been made from across the River Clyde. As all of Turner’s other sketches of the castle were made from the castle side of the river, and as there was no bridge nearby, the artist must have sought a boat to take him briefly across the water for this view. A rowing boat can be seen in the sketch of Bothwell Castle on folio 30 (D26317).
At the top of the page is a view of the castle from the south-west with the river in the foreground and twisting into the distance at the right of the picture. The rough outline of the castle shows the donjon (or keep) at the left and the circular south-east tower at the right. Although the sketching is quite rough the small picture forms a pleasing composition suggesting that Turner was interested here in imagining finished pictures on the spot, rather than recording architectural and topographical details.
In contrast, the sketch beneath is a careful study of the castle’s ruins from the south with the south-east tower at the right and the donjon at the left. Even here, however, Turner has to some extend manipulated the appearance of things to suit the design, compressing what is in fact quite a wide view into a more compact sketch. This also has the effect of making the towers appear a little taller than they perhaps should, though this is also due to the low viewpoint. Turner inscribed the number ‘4’ to the right of the sketch, presumably referring to a particular architectural detail, perhaps the number of top-row windows in the castle wall, a detail that is not apparent in the sketch. There is a similar sketch to this on folio 28 (D26313).

Thomas Ardill
October 2010

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