Joseph Mallord William Turner

Fingal’s Cave, Staffa


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 156 × 235 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXLI 285

Catalogue entry

This is one of two loose-leaf sketches of Fingal’s Cave, a sea cave on the Isle of Staffa off the west coast of Scotland. As David Wallace-Hadrill noticed, the sketch and its companion (Tate D34001; Turner Bequest CCCXLI 284) are related to on-the-spot sketches in the Staffa sketchbook made in 1831. The present sketch bears a very close resemblance to a particular sketch of the cave’s entrance made from the back of the cave at the left: Tate D26797 (Turner Bequest CCLXXIII 29).
Both sketches, although executed quite roughly, give the impression of the basalt columns that line the cave walls. This quick and confident drawing style suggests that the sketch was made on the spot, although the fact that it does not belong to a sketchbook would indicate that it is a study based on previous sketches, perhaps made while Turner was preparing his vignette design for Sir Walter Scott’s The Lord of the Isles, volume 10 of a new edition of his Poetical Works: Fingal’s Cave, Staffa circa 1833–4 (whereabouts unknown).1
Additional sheets relating to Fingal’s Cave (Tate D34015–D34017; Turner Bequest CCCXLI a 297, 298, 298v) were identified in 2016.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.429 no.1089.
Blank, except for pencil inscriptions in an unknown hand ‘285’ bottom-right and ? ‘241 | o’ top-left inverted.

Thomas Ardill
May 2010

Revised by Matthew Imms
September 2016

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