Joseph Mallord William Turner

Holy Island; Whitby; Runswick Cliffs


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 187 × 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CC 4 a

Catalogue entry

Previous scholars have identified the sketches on this page as Holy Island, but missed the two other depicted locations: Whitby and Runswick. The sketches belong to a series of views taken from a boat that conveyed Turner to Edinburgh in 1822 (see folio 1 verso for details; D17509).
With the sketchbook turned to the right, the top sketch of the page shows the North Yorkshire town of Whitby from the north-east with Whitby Abbey on the cliff above the pier. Below is a sketch inscribed ‘Runswick Cliffs’ which shows the steep cliffs at the west side of Runswick Bay, just six or seven miles up the coast from Whitby.
The four sketches of ‘Holy Island’ in fact begin as a sequence from the bottom of the page with a sketch made from just s south-west of the Island looking towards Lindisfarne Castle on the right, and Lindisfarne Priory in the distance at the left. At the very left of the picture Turner has included a sailing vessel heading out towards open water from the passage between the island and the southern mainland.
The next sketch in the sequence is the uppermost of the four Holy Island drawings, and shows the castle from due east. Below this, another view of the island and castle was made when Turner moved further north of the island so that he was looking south-west with the ridge of Guile Point to the left of the island and the Kyloe Hills beyond. The final drawing is again from the north-east and shows the castle with the Kyloe Hills in the distance.
Turner drew Holy Island again on his return sea voyage from Edinburgh (see folios 82 and 82 verso; D17652, D17653).

Thomas Ardill
July 2008

Read full Catalogue entry

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