Joseph Mallord William Turner

Johnny Armstrong’s Tower


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 61 a

Catalogue entry

From the banks of the River Esk, this sketch looks along the twisting river towards Johnny Armstrong’s Tower (also known as Hollows of Gilnockie Tower; for more information see folio 61; D25881). This sketch has previously been identified as the basis of Turner’s vignette illustration to volume 2 of Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works, Johnnie Armstrong’s Tower circa 1832 (watercolour, Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati).1 However, this view is from the north of the tower (identifiable as the tower is to the right of the water) while the viewpoint in the watercolour is from the south with Gilnockie Bridge in the foreground. There is no single source for Turner’s composition, which involved manipulating the various elements of the scene and re-imagining it from new viewpoints. However, Turner’s other sketches of it were all from the south (folios 61, 62 and 62 verso; D25881, D25883, D25884).
This sketch must have been made as Turner left the tower on his way north along the river to Langholm.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.427 no.1073.

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