Joseph Mallord William Turner

Carse of Stirling with Cambuskenneth Abbey and the Old and New Bridges

1831 and 1834

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 125 x 201 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXX 15 a

Catalogue entry

This view of the Carse of Stirling from Gowan Hill raises the possibility that Turner used the Stirling and West sketchbook on two visits to Stirling in 1831 and 1834. Henry Crawford was the first to point out that the sketch includes Stirling’s New Bridge, the foundation stone of which was laid in September 1831.1 The bridge was not completed until 1833, leading David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan to ask, ‘Is there a possibility that this sketch belongs to Turner’s 1834 tour rather than that of the Summer of 1831?’2 Another sketch on folio 10 verso (D26455) may also include some the arches of the New Bridge, and both bridges were included in Turner’s watercolour of Stirling circa 1834–5 (Glasgow Museums).3
There are two possible explanations. The first, raised by Crawford and Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan, is that Turner used the Stirling and West sketchbook on two occasions. First in 1831 and again on his return in 1834, when he filled in blank pages with new sketches of Stirling next to the old ones in order to keep his source material together in one place. Alternatively, he could have made this sketch in 1831, adding the New Bridge in late 1834 after seeing it on his return to the town. This second explanation is perhaps more convincing as the sketch opposite on folio 16 (D26266), which must have been made before the smaller flanking sketches of Loch Fyne on the same page, depicts a view from nearby that was presumably made on the same occasion. It also seems unlikely that Turner would have brought the very full Stirling and West sketchbook back with him to Scotland in 1834 just to make one or two sketches.
The view is over the Carse of Stirling, an area of flat, low-lying agricultural land to the west of town with the River Forth in the middle distance. It was made from Gowan Hill near Stirling Castle and includes, as mentioned, the two bridges over the River Forth in the foreground. At the right is Cambuskenneth Abbey, which is also drawn in more detail in a separate sketch above. To the left is the hill of Abbey Craig with the Ochil Hills behind it.

Thomas Ardill
June 2010

Crawford 1936, pp.23–4.
Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan 1990, p.17.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.433 no.1122.
Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan 1990, p.17.
Crawford 1936, pp,23–4.

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