Joseph Mallord William Turner

Melrose Abbey


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVII 12

Catalogue entry

Robert Cadell described this sketch of Melrose Abbey as ‘a South East view of the whole pile.’1 It was one of three detailed drawings that Turner made on 8 August in the company of Robert Cadell (see folio 11; D25946; CCLXVII 11 for details). This is perhaps the most detailed architectural study that Turner made in this sketchbook. He seems to have delighted in the details of the buildings, drawing almost every feature with little recourse to sketching shortcuts. As Robert Cadell reported, it took Turner about three hours to make his studies of the abbey, and much of his time must have been taken up with this sketch and the drawing of the interior on folios 13 verso–14 (D25951–D25952; CCLXVII 13a–14).
That Turner spent so long on so few views may be explained by the fact that he visited Melrose Abbey in 1797 and made a series of detailed studies then. These have a similar character to the present sketch, but are of different views (Tate D00969, D00970, D01019, D40551, D01020; Turner Bequest XXXIV 60, 61, XXXV 16, 17, 18).

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Robert Cadell, ‘Abbotsford Diary’, Monday 8 August, National Library of Scotland, MS Acc. 5188, Box 1, folio 109; transcribed in Finley 1972, p.382.

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