Joseph Mallord William Turner

Staffa from the South-West


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 18 a

Catalogue entry

The three sketches on this page are of the Isle of Staffa. Turner approached the island from the north (folios 40, 40 verso, 42; D26718, D26718, D26721), having journeyed by steamboat from Tobermory on Mull. David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan suggest that his boat then steamed down the west side of the island and approached the entrance to Fingal’s Cave from the south.1 The sketches on the current page were made from the south-west of the island, and begin a sequence of sketches made as Turner approached the island and landed at the entrance to Fingal’s Cave: folios 18 verso–24 verso and 27 verso–28 (D26777–D26788, D26794–D26795).
Turner may have drawn the sketch at the bottom of the page first, as this view (which shows the whole island from the west) is simplified in shape and exaggerated in detail. The sketch above it shows the northern half of the island with Mull in the background, and perhaps the island of Little Colonsay. The sketch at the top of the page provides more detail with shading to make the rock appear more rounded, and vertical lines indicate the basalt columns from which the island is constructed. The coastline of Mull can be seen in the background to the right. The sketches on folio 19 show a similar view.

Thomas Ardill
March 2010

David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner’s Visit to the Isle of Staffa: A Reading of his Letter to James Lenox, 16 August 1845’, Turner Society News, no.75, March 1997, p.9.

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