Joseph Mallord William Turner

Oban Bay with Dunollie Castle; and Groups of Figures at Oban Bay


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 186 × 116 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXIII 58

Catalogue entry

This is one of four pages of studies, made by Turner at Oban Bay, that show people and boats in the harbour; see also folios 58 verso–59 verso (D26855–D26857). Turner took a great interest in the excitement and activity of people around the quay and pier, perhaps capturing his own excitement at the prospect of travelling by steamer to the islands of Skye, Mull and Staffa.
The sketch at the head of the page, drawn with the book held vertically, shows the pier at Oban Bay with boats moored along the wharfs and figures crowded around in groups. At the centre of the composition, across the bay to the north, is Dunollie Castle, a similar view of which is on folio 59. For references to further sketches of Dunollie see folio 95 (D26928).1
The rest of the page is filled with studies of figure groups, all drawn with the book held horizontally. There are four groups, each of three figures. At the left are three smartly dressed gentlemen in tartan suits with long jackets and ‘Tam O’Shanter’ bonnets. There is a sketch of a Tam O’Shanter above these figures. The group to the right is more sketchily drawn, making it uncertain whether they are all women, and what they are doing. Above is a group of one standing and two sitting figures. These may be the same figures that sit on the steps at the left of the Oban scene. Finally, at the right is a group of three women, the middle one perhaps with a child at her feet, and the one on the left with her hands on her hips. These may be the same three figures also standing at the centre of the Oban scene, as they assume a similar stance there.

Thomas Ardill
February 2010

Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan 1991, pp.25, 28.

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