Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dunstaffnage Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 116 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXIII 89 a

Catalogue entry

This view of Dunstaffnage Castle from the north-west is close to the composition of Turner’s watercolour Dunstaffnage circa 1832–5 (Indianapolis Museum of Art),1 painted to illustrate Tales of a Grandfather, volume 24 of Sir Walter Scott’s Prose Works. It was made either from the rocky shore of the promontory on which the castle sits, or from a boat near the shore, and looks east across the mouth of Loch Etive to the mountains beyond.
Although this is the closest sketch of Dunstaffnage to the watercolour, there are a number of differences that indicate that Turner also referred to his other drawing of the castle to remember certain details, and manipulated the view to create an effective composition. The castle looks quite different in the watercolour. Turner elevated the point from which it is viewed to show more of the gatehouse roof, made the structure appear taller and brought it closer to the water’s edge. At the right he also included the remains of the chapel, which are not shown in the sketch but do appear on folios 91 and 91 verso (D26920, D26921).
At the top right of the page is a second sketch of the castle, again from the north-west but this time from a lower viewpoint, so that only one of the chimneys of the gatehouse is visible above the curtain wall. Turner presumably made the sketch to provide him with more information about the north-west façade of the building, the first sketch being too small to include all of the windows and details, such as the shape of the ruins and the bars across one of the windows.
The artist made further sketches from the north-west on folio 89 (D26916), and a view from the west with a similar composition on folio 90 (D26918). See folio 89 for more information on Turner’s sketches of Dunstaffnage.

Thomas Ardill
January 2010

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.344 no.1124.

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