Joseph Mallord William Turner

Staffa from the North; and Other Sketches of Nearby Islands


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 116 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXIII 40 a

Catalogue entry

The sketch that has attracted the most attention on this page is the one drawn with the book inverted at the bottom of the page. This was identified by Finberg as one of Turner’s sketches of the Isle of Staffa,1 seen here from the north.2 There is a very similar, but larger, sketch of the island on the reverse of this page (folio 40; D16817), and further sketches on folios 8 verso–9, 18 verso–22 verso, 24 verso, 27 verso–30 verso, 34 verso, 35, 39 and 42 (D26760–D26761, D26777–D26785, D26788, D26794D26800, D26806, D26807, D26815, D26821). In the present sketch, probably one of the first sketches he made as he approached the island, Turner recorded the basic shape of the island, while on 40 verso he began to study the formation of the basalt columns of which the island is composed.
At the right of the page, drawn with the book turned to the left, is a sketch of a building on an island inscribed ‘Cal’. This may be part of the ruin of Cairnburgh Castle, which is in two parts on the islands of Cairn na Burgh More and Cairn na Burgh Beg, the most north-easterly of the Treshnish Isles (see also folio 42 verso; D26822).
Beneath the Staffa sketch is a sketch of islands that Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan suggest may be of Muck and Eigg with Skye in the distance,3 presumably seen from the south. At the bottom of the page, drawn with the sketchbook inverted, is a sketch of a coastline with a sailing boat.

Thomas Ardill
March 2010

Finberg 1909, II, p.876.
David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner on Mull and Staffa’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, [folio 19].

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