Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches of Smailholm Tower, Scottish Borders


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 185 × 113 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVII 83 a

Catalogue entry

With the sketchbook turned to the right are six sketches made at Smailholm Tower. Two depict the tower and the others are of distant hills. The tower is shown from the east in both sketches, the top one being made from the track between the millpond and Sandyknowe Farm, and the bottom one from beyond the farm. These were made as Turner and his party of Robert Cadell, Sir Walter Scott and his servant James left Smailholm around four o’clock on the afternoon of 6 August 1831.1
Gerald Finley has identified these sketches as the basis of a watercolour that shows the party leaving Smailholm in a coach, made by Turner to commemorate his visit and sent to Scott in 1832: The ‘Presentation’ Smailholm Tower and Sandy Knowe Farm circa 1831–2 (Courtauld Institute Gallery, London). In the picture the two sketches are combined with the tower of the top sketch and the foreground of the bottom sketch which includes Sandyknowe Farm.2
Between these two sketches are two views of the distant ‘Cheviot’ hills, according to Turner’s inscription. There are two further sketches at the top of the page which presumably also depict these hills to the south.
For more information on Turner’s visit and sketches of Smailholm see folio 82 verso (D26077; CCLXVII 84a).

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Robert Cadell, ‘Abbotsford Diary’, 6 August 1831, folios 106–7, National Library of Scotland, MS Acc. 5188, Box 1; reproduced in Finley 1972, p.381.
Finley 1972, p.368 note 63; Finley 1980, pp.149–50.

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