In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVI 56

Catalogue entry

Having taken a detour from Carlisle to visit Naworth Castle (see folio 29; D25817), Turner crossed the Scottish border at Gretna Green and proceeded to Dumfries – his first stop in Scotland during his 1831 tour. From here he visited Caerlaverock Castle (folios 49 verso–53; D25858–D25865) and Sweetheart Abbey (folio 45 verso to 49; D25850–D25857), both of which he later illustrated for Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works, and Lincluden Collegiate Church (known as Lincluden Abbey, see folio 53 verso; D25866) which was proposed as a subject, though never illustrated.1 The order of sketches in the Minstrelsy book suggests that Turner visited these satellite sites before making these few sketches of Dumfries.
The main view of Dumfries appears on this page, which also includes a smaller second view. The sketch continues slightly onto folio 55 verso (D25870) where there is another small sketch of the town.
The larger sketch on this page was taken from the west bank of the River Nith just south of the town centre near the weir. From here we look north up the river with water rushing and splashing down the weir in the foreground, and the arches of Devorgilla Bridge (also known as Old Bridge, or Auld Brig) beyond. Three towers rise above the town on the eastern bank: at the left the old spire of Greyfriars Kirk, rebuilt in 1868, where Robert the Bruce murdered the Red Comyn; in the centre is Midsteeple or Town House; and at the right is the spire of St Michael’s Church. At the bottom right of the page there is a large boat drawn up on the river bank with five or six figures standing by. This sketch extends slightly to the left onto folio 55 verso.
At the top of the page is a sketch of Devorgilla Bridge, through which can be seen the arches of another bridge a little upstream. The spire of Greyfriars, and Midsteeple can be seen to the right. There is another view of Dumfries from the opposite direction on folio 55 verso.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, p.240.

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