Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches of Duart Castle from the North and East


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 91 × 153 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXIV 5

Catalogue entry

Approaching the Sound of Mull by steamboat from Oban Pier on his way to Skye, Turner’s attention was caught by Duart Castle, which sits on a headland of Mull at the mouth of the Sound of Mull. The artist may have read about the castle in the Steamboat Companion, and have taken an interest in the story of McLean of Duart who marooned his wife on the nearby Lady Rock,1 a note of which Turner made on the reverse of this page (folio 5 verso; D26945). There are further sketches of the castle on folios 4 verso–6 and 7 verso (D26943–D26946, D26948), and in the Staffa sketchbook (see Tate D26545; Turner Bequest CCLXXIII 55a), the latter presumably made when he passed the castle for a second time on his return to Oban.
There are six studies of the castle on this page. With the sketchbook held in its usual position so that the spine is at the top there are four sketches. Turner probably made the three at the top of the page first, as these show the castle from the east. Two are rough sketches of the castle buildings, while the third, at the top right, shows the headland on which the castle stands with the foothills of Dùn da Ghaoithe to the left. The largest sketch, across the centre of the page, was made from the north-north-east as Turner’s boat was just about to enter the Sound of Mull. The castle stands near the end of the promontory, with Duart Bay behind it and the mountain of Creach Beinn to the right.
With the sketchbook turned to the right is a small sketch of the castle from the north-east. The square building is the Tower House, which has since been fully restored. The artist then turned the book to the right again and drew, at the foot of the page, two almost overlapping studies of the building as seen from the north-east.

Thomas Ardill
February 2010

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.166.

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