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 31 c

Catalogue entry

This sketch (continued on folio 34; D13640; CLXVII 32) is one of three double-page sketches of the castle from the harbour to the east that formed the basis of Turner’s Provincial Antiquities design: Dunbar, circa 1823 (watercolour, private collection).1 In this version the castle gate (folio 34) is closest to its appearance in the final design. A few pages earlier in the sketchbook, there is a drawing that Finberg recognised as the basis for the watercolour (folios 30 verso–31; D13633–D13634; CLXVII 29a–30), and a sketch in the Edinburgh, 1818 sketchbook (1818) (folios 24 verso–25; Tate D13496–D13497; Turner Bequest CLXVI 24a–25) is also very similar and was utilised for the final design.
In the foreground of the present page are rocks jutting out of the water; these have since been removed to make a safe harbour. The South Battery in the centre of the page, however, still looks as it did in Turner’s day, and the ruins of the castle gate (left of folio 34) are extant, though in a more dilapidated state. The remains of the keep in the centre of folio 34 no longer exist, having been blasted through in 1844 to create a harbour entrance.
There is a pink smudge at the top left transferred from Ruskin’s inscription on the opposite page.

Thomas Ardill
March 2008

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1066.

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