Joseph Mallord William Turner

Rob Roys’ Cave, Loch Lomond; and Sketches Made on the Journey to Islay


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 201 x 125 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXX 77 a

Catalogue entry

Turner used this sketchbook page on at least two occasions. The first was while he was aboard a steamboat touring the length of Loch Lomond (see folio 23; D26480) on his way from the head of the loch to the landing at Inversnaid (folio 92; D26617). At the bottom of the page, with the sketchbook inverted, Turner drew a rough sketch inscribed ‘Rob Roy’s Cave’. A dark cleft at the centre of the sketch is the cave, which is well hidden within the rocks on the east side of Loch Lomond about a mile north of Inversnaid. Turner would have been keen to see the site, which was associated with Sir Walter Scott, who visited the cave in 1817 in research for his novel, Rob Roy. After making this sketch Turner landed at Inversnaid, from where he travelled on to Lochs Arklet and Katrine, before returning to Inversnaid for the return journey to Dumbarton (see Tour of Scotland for Scott’s Poetical Works Tour Introduction). For further sketches made on Loch Lomond see folio 23 (D26480).
The artist turned back to this page to utilise the blank space while he was aboard another steamboat, this time travelling along the Firth of Clyde to Islay. Having stopped briefly at Dunoon (folio 68 verso; D26571) Turner’s boat steamed south around the point of the Cowal Peninsula. As he rounded the point he made a sketch at the top of the page showing the view south towards the Isle of Arran which lies about fifteen miles away. The view has been identified by the distinctive outline of Goatfell,1 the highest point of the island. The Isle of Bute lies in the foreground, with Great Cumbrae Island at the left. Nearby by at the right is the east coast of the Cowal Peninsula with a tower.
From the same point, or nearby, Turner looked south-east towards ‘Largs’ on the mainland coast. He has inscribed both these sketches ‘Clyde S[outh].’ The inscription of the third sketch down has been read as ‘Clyde N[orth]’,2 making this a view from the same point as the previous sketch, but now looking north up the Clyde and along the east coast of the Cowal Peninsula in the direction of Dunoon.

Thomas Ardill
December 2009

Irwin, Wilton, Finley and others 1982, p.52.
David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner Round the Clyde and Islay – 1831’, 1991, Tate catalogue files, folio 8.
Irwin, Wilton, Finley and others 1982, p.52.
Ibid. A ‘tower in ruins’ is mentioned in the Steamboat Companion which Turner may have used, which presumably prompted this identification: James Lumsden and Son, Lumsden and Son’s Steamboat Companion; or Stranger’s Guide to the Western Isles and Highlands of Scotland, Glasgow 1839, p.111.

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