Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dunstaffnage Castle from Loch Etive; and ?Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe


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 82 a

Catalogue entry

With the sketchbook held so that the fore-edge is at the top, across the top half of the page is a sketch that has been identified as Dunstaffnage Castle, as seen from Loch Etive to the east.1 The view along the loch, with the castle on a promontory at the left and with the mountains of Mull and the Morvern hills in the background, is familiar from several other pages of this book: folios 81 verso, 82, 83, 84 verso and 86 (D26901, D26902, D26904, D26907, D26910).
The inscription beneath the sketch has been interpreted differently by different writers. David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan suggest that it says ‘Black Crofts’, a village on the northern side of Loch Etive opposite, where Turner would have stood to make this sketch.2 John Gage, however, has read the second word as ‘Cuyp’, referring to the artist Aelbert Cuyp (1620–91), who Turner associated with dawn and dusk scenes, often inscribing the name to indicate a Cuypian scene, or just a yellow hue. 3 The suggestion is compelling when compared to two other sketches made during Turner’s 1831 tour of Scotland (Tate D25737; Turner Bequest CCLXV 53; and Tate D26559; Turner Bequest CCLXX 62a), both of which have the word inscribed next to a small circle showing the sun’s orb. It is also supported by further colour notes on similar sketches of Dunstaffnage on folios 81 verso and 83 (D26901, D26904) – ‘all grey’ and ‘gold’ – which indicate, according to Wallace Hadrill and Carolan, that Turner saw the scene ‘in terms of the watercolour that might result’.4 Neither writer tackled the first word which could be read as ‘Castle’, referring to Dunstaffnage, or ‘Cattle’, suggesting that Turner had seen cows near the water’s edge in the foreground of the picture. ‘Cattle’ would be consistent with the ‘Cuyp’ reading, as the Dutch master often painted cows in the foreground of his pictures.
In addition to the setting sun (which is reflected in the water of the loch beneath), the clouds and a diagonal line to their right may indicate rain, which is also shown in a similar view at the top of folio 86 (D26910). Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan suggested that Turner sketched Dunstaffnage castle as he approached it towards evening from Loch Etive, and again when he returned the next morning to make further sketches.5

Thomas Ardill
January 2010

Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan 1991, p.29.
Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan 1991, p.23.
A. [‘Fred’] H.G. Bachrach, ‘Aelbert Cuyp’, Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.69–70.
Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan 1991, p.23.
Ibid., p.25.
David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner on Mull and Staffa, 1831’ (unpublished manuscript), [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, [folio 16 verso].

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