Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dumbarton Rock


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 101 × 158 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXI 19 a

Catalogue entry

David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan have cleverly deduced that an inscription on this page which looks like ‘Dnbraetn’ stands for ‘Dunbreatuinn’ (also written ‘Dun Breatainn’), which is Gaelic for ‘the Fortress of the Britons’, now called Dumbarton. As they suggest, the word ‘appears to have been written with painstaking difficulty as somebody spelt it out for Turner’.1
The three sketches on this page are accordingly all of Dumbarton Rock. The largest sketch is a view of the ramparts and fortifications on its western side, as seen from the mouth of the River Leven. The other two sketches, made at the fore-edge of the page and at the head (with the sketchbook turned to the left), show the rock’s lower reaches in the River Clyde.
These sketches are likely to have been made around the third week of August in 1831, when Turner embarked on a steamboat and walking tour of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs which began at Bowling near Dumbarton.2 There is another sketch of the western side of the rock on folio 20 (D26657), and further sketches on the inside front cover and folios 1, 1 verso and 2 verso of this sketchbook (D41131, D26619, D26620, D26622), and in the Stirling and the West sketchbook (Tate D26598; Turner Bequest CCLXX 82a).

Thomas Ardill
October 2009

David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner Round the Clyde and in Islay – 1831’, 1991, Tate catalogue files, [folio 2].
Ibid., folios 1, 9.

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