Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dunbar, with the Harbour and Castle; the Cheviot Hills in the Distance


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 99 × 159 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXV 24

Catalogue entry

Turner made numerous drawings of Dunbar in all three of the 1818 Scottish sketchbooks, but while most concentrate on the coastline or castle, this one shows the view from the harbour with the castle, town and harbour, and in the distance the Cheviot Hills. Unlike most of the drawings in the sketchbook so far, this one attempts to suggest contemporary life in the area with the fishing boat in the bottom-left corner, and other boats drawn up on the shore opposite, as well as buildings on the left, contrasting, but co-existing with the ruins on the right. The castle is drawn economically with the rough shape outlined, and the distinctive ruined tower shapes at the far left.
Although the Cheviot Hills are just over forty miles away on the border between Scotland and England, the land between Dunbar and the hills is relatively flat, so Turner would have been able to see them, although they would not have appeared to loom above the castle as this drawing suggests. Turner was either wildly exaggerating, or deliberately drawing out of scale in order to depict the hills more clearly. This portion of the page could even be regarded as a separate drawing. His impulse to draw the hills – the only visible part of England – may have been patriotic.
There are further studies of fishing boats, perhaps also drawn at Dunbar, later in the sketchbook (folio 25 verso; D13368; CLXV 25a).

Thomas Ardill
October 2007

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