Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dunfermline Abbey


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 125 × 201 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXX 3 a

Catalogue entry

The main sketch on this page depicts Dunfermline Abbey and was used by Turner as the basis for his watercolour, Dunfermline circa 1834–5 (private collection).1 The view is from the south and shows the abbey church with the remains of the south wall of the refectory of the ruined monastery in front. While this wall is only faintly drawn in the sketch, Turner relied on other sketches and his memory to depict it more clearly in the watercolour. To the bottom left of the church are trees with a stream or path. It is not clear whether this constitutes a separate sketch or is part of the same view, but in either case these trees are likely to be in Dunfermline Glen just to the south of the abbey. These trees and the glen with a waterfall are included at the bottom left of the Dunfermline watercolour. There is a similar view on folio 4 (D26442).
At the bottom right of the page is a separate sketch of the old Tolbooth in the High Street, which is seen behind the church in the watercolour. A set of steps and a gabled building are also depicted on the page. Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan, who first linked this sketch to the watercolour, have identified these steps as those that lead up to the Kirkyard from the south, and have suggested that the gabled building is one of the snuff mills that operated north of Monastery Street.2
Further sketches of Dunfermline in this sketchbook appear on folios 2–7 verso (D26438–D26449). Turner visited Dunfermline on his way from Edinburgh to Stirling in 1831 and later used his sketches as the basis for an illustration to a new edition of Sir Walter Scott’s Tales of a Grandfather.

Thomas Ardill
June 2010

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.433 no.1121.
Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan 1990, p.17.

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