Joseph Mallord William Turner

Hermitage Castle, Lidderdale


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVI 67

Catalogue entry

This drawing formed the basis of Turner’s vignette illustration of Hermitage Castle circa 1832 (watercolour, private collection),1 engraved for the fourth volume of Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works. All of the topographical and architectural elements on the vignette are present in this sketched view from the west: the western elevation of Hermitage Castle, the earthworks to the north (left) and the Hermitage Water in the foreground. However, when Turner came to translate this landscape composition into a vertical vignette format he needed to move these elements around to fit them into the space and create a tight composition. The castle therefore gets moved directly above the river, and the earthworks are lowered to the level of the castle and brought closer in. Turner also moved the shrubby tree from the right of the water to the left in order to open up the centre of the foreground and create the effect that the water was almost spilling out of the vignette. Finally, he added swirling wings of cloud to either side of the castle, each echo the water, contain the distance within the small space of the top of the composition and round off the top to create an oval.
This drawing was the last of fourteen sketches of Heritage Castle, near Hawick, made over nine pages (folios 63 verso to 67 and 68 verso; D25886–D25893, D25896). The order of the sketches in the book roughly follows a path from the east to the west of the structure. Turner visited Hermitage Castle on the return trip from Hawick on 4 August. That evening he arrived at Abbotsford to spend five days with Sir Walter Scott.2
There is a similar view of the castle on folio 68 verso.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.428 no.1077.
Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, pp.93–102.

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop