Joseph Mallord William Turner

Staffa with Fingal’s Cave from the South and 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 19 a

Catalogue entry

Approaching the island of Staffa from the north and steaming round its western side towards the landing at the south, Turner sketched the changing appearance of the island. As his boat rounded the south-western corner of the island he made a quick but careful sketch of the island at the bottom of this page, carefully drawing the shape of the rocks and suggesting the structure of the basalt columns with rows of vertical lines. The larger sketch above shows the island from the south and nearer. The layer of columnar basalt is now clearly indicated, sandwiched between layered volcanic rock of different types and structures. The mouth of Fingal’s Cave is indicated by a shaded area towards the right of the cliff face while the smaller Boat Cave is drawn at the centre. To the right of the island is Am Buachaille (or the Herdsman), a pyramidal rock made of diagonal basalt columns. The view of this sketch is very similar to an aquatint by William Daniell, that the artist may have been familiar with: The Island of Staffa, from the South West 1826, Tate T02801). There is also a similar view on folio 20 (D26780).
These sketches belong to a sequence that charts the boat’s half-circuit of the island: folios 18 verso–24 verso and 27 verso–28 (D26777–D26788, D26794–D26795).
For references to all of Turner’s sketches of Staffa and Fingal’s Cave see folio 40 (D26817).

Thomas Ardill
March 2010

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