Joseph Mallord William Turner

Edinburgh, from Village of Dean


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 84 a

Catalogue entry

Throughout the sketches of Edinburgh from the Village of Dean, Turner is interested in exploring the relationship between the village and the city as a relationship between foreground and background. In this sketch – continuing on folio 73 (D13742; CLXVII 85) – the village and city are separated by the Water of Leith, which runs across the page, but joined by a bridge (folio 73); this also acts as a method of connecting the foreground with the background.
There is similarly an interest in the relationship between height and depth. On the present page we look at the roofs of several houses before a deep plunge down the bank to the river below, and a steep rise on the other side. On folio 73, Edinburgh Castle rises above the rooftops, reaching the very top of the page. This is contrasted by the ‘water fall’ that Turner notes beneath, although it is not obviously apparent in the sketch.
The extreme heights and depths, combined with the closeness of the buildings in the foreground and the sense of distance as buildings vanish in the distance contribute towards a very busy picture that could be confusing had Turner not employed a great economy of line. Gerald Wilkinson remarks on ‘the skill with which [the picture] is organised, using little more that a line of varying weight’.1 This helps to distinguish individual objects, indicate distance and suggest form with relatively few marks.
The pink mark at the bottom left of the page has transferred from Ruskin’s number on the opposite page.

Thomas Ardill
March 2008

Wilkinson 1974, p.178.

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