Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dunbar Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXVII 17 a

Catalogue entry

Dunbar Castle was one of the subjects selected for Walter Scott’s Provincial Antiquities publication (see Tour of Scotland 1818 Tour Introduction) with an engraving by Edward Goodall after John Alexander Schetky (Dunbar Castle, engraving, 1823, Provincial Antiquities no.VIII) in addition to Turner’s version, Dunbar, circa 1823 (watercolour, private collection).1
Turner made rapid sketches of the town and castle in the Bass Rock and Edinburgh (Tate D13322–D13448; D40682–D40684 complete sketchbook; Turner Bequest CLXV) and the Edinburgh (Tate D13449–D13586; D40934–D40937 complete sketchbook; Turner Bequest CLXVI) sketchbooks. He evidently used the three sketchbooks in unison; with Bass Rock and Edinburgh for the quickest visual notes, Edinburgh for more complete sketches, and the present sketchbook for the most highly worked and composed studies, as was his habit on this tour.
The sketches over the following seventeen pages represent a methodical study of the ruined castle, with a progression of views from the west to the east, culminating in the two sketches that formed the basis of his final design (folios 30 verso–31 and 33 verso–34; D13633–D13634 and D13639–D13640; CLXVII 29a, 30, 31c, 32). Other sketches of Dunbar Castle appear in this sketchbook on folios 19–31 and 33 verso–35; D13616–D13634 and D13639–D13642; CLXVII 18–30 and 31c–33).
The sketch over this and following page (folio 19; D13616; CLXVII 18) shows the castle from the west with the rocks of Long Craigs at the left and in the foreground; at the right the far end of the rocky promontory upon which the castle sits descends into the sea. As with most of the following sketches the verso pages are the extension of the sketch on the opposite recto, and in many cases are more roughly drawn.

Thomas Ardill
February 2008

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1069.

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