Joseph Mallord William Turner

Linlithgow Palace


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Support: 253 × 371 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 194

Catalogue entry

This relatively developed ‘colour beginning’ is a study for the watercolour Linlithgow Palace (Manchester Art Gallery),1 unusually fully signed and dated ‘JMW Turner RA Sept 14 1821’ and showing the ruined medieval palace from the north-east beside Linlithgow Loch, fifteen miles west of Edinburgh, with the imposing crown spire of St Michael’s Parish Church beyond to its left. It was engraved in 1822 (Tate impressions: T04498, T06065) for Walter Scott’s Provincial Antiquities of Scotland (see the Introduction to this section) and, as discussed by Thomas Ardill in his catalogue entries, was based on some of the many pencil drawings around the site in the 1818 Scotch Antiquities sketchbook, particularly Tate D13679, D13680 (Turner Bequest CLXVII 53, 53a) and a double-page sketch in the Edinburgh 1818 sketchbook (Tate D13514–D13515; CLXVI 33a–34).2
Finberg tentatively suggested ‘Kirkstall, from the river (?)’3 as the subject, presumably recalled the 1824 Rivers of England watercolour (Tate D18146; Turner Bequest CCVIII M),4 with its hills, ruins, water, trees and cows in a fundamentally similar arrangement as here,5 but the direct relationship with the Linlithgow subject is indisputable. Despite the closeness of this work to the finished watercolour, including the two trees framing the view on the right and a variation on the variegated foreground group of cows, it was not until 1997 that Eric Shanes first published the connection.6 He suggested that given Turner’s ‘customary speed of production ... the present work might easily have been created on the same day’7 as the 14 September watercolour, and noted that the fall of the light from the right in both cases indicates an evening scene.
Katrina Thomson observes how the present work ‘establishes the peaceful, golden atmosphere ... in which the palace and its landscape are suffused by the gentle radiance of a dipping sun.’8 Another watercolour study, Tate D25325 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 203), shows Turner contemplating a completely different treatment of the subject.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1067, as untraced.
See also ibid., and Shanes 1997, p.63.
Finberg 1909, II, p.829.
Wilton 1979, p.385 no.741, reproduced.
See Spender 1980, p.140.
See Shanes 1997, pp.28, 63, 101.
Ibid., p.63.
Thomson 1999, p.88.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

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