Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches of Blackness Castle

1818

Not on display

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 90 × 112 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D13516
Turner Bequest CLXVI 34 a

Catalogue entry

Across this and the opposite page (folio 35; D13516) are a tangle of four sketches, drawn with the sketchbook in its usual orientation and inverted. An inscription on folio 35, ‘Linlithgow Lock’ [sic], led Finberg to label the two pages ‘Two views of “Linlithgow Lock.”’, however, there is only one small and slight view of the loch on the bottom right of folio 35 above the Turner Bequest stamp, and the other three sketches are, as noted in David Wallace-Hadrill’s notes (though probably by Janet Carolan), of ‘Blackness Cas[tle]’1 on the Firth of Forth about three and a half miles from Linlithgow.
At the top of this page with the sketchbook inverted is a view of Blackness Castle with the north shore of the river beyond, and a screen of rocks in the right foreground. There are two boats sailing on the river just to the left of the castle, and the background continues onto folio 35 where there are buildings on the far shore, and several clouds in the sky. Below the castle is another sketch of part of the castle, this time very rough and hard to decipher, although it seems to include the same turret as the drawing above. At the bottom of the page, drawn with the sketchbook in its usual orientation is a sketch of a river bank with distant hills inscribed ‘north’ which may show the north side of Linlithgow Loch, with a clump of trees at the near side on the left, or perhaps it is the north shore of the Firth of Forth seen from Blackness.
Blackness Castle was one of the subjects ‘proposed by Scott but unpublished’ in the Provincial Antiquities,2 so Turner may have sketched the castle in preparation for a potential illustration. However, the sketchbook evidence of just a few slight sketches of the castle, suggest that he probably visited the site briefly during his trip to Linlithgow or Rosyth Castle for his own interest and reference.

Thomas Ardill
December 2007

1
David Wallace-Hadrill’s unpublished notes, [circa 1989–94], Tate catalogue files.
2
Katrina Thomson, Turner and Sir Walter Scott: The Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 1999, p.[14].

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