Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 99 × 159 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXV 34 a

Catalogue entry

This and folio 34 (D13381; CLXV 34) were identified by Finberg as the ruins of Dunbar,1 presumably by the ruin on the promontory in the distance and on the strength of previous sketchbook pages (e.g. folios 23 verso–25, 26 verso and 27; D13364–D13368, D13370, D13371; Turner Bequest CLXV 23a–25, 26a, 27). However, such a reading fails to account for the viewpoint from which the sketch was taken, or to mention the island in the right foreground which is Bass Rock (see folio 8 verso; D13336; CLXV 8a).
A view north-west from the coast near Dunbar, looking towards Tantallon Castle and a rocky headland to the north is therefore more plausible (as in several other drawings in this sketchbook, e.g. folios 6 verso, 34; D13332, D13318; CLXV 6a, 34). Seacliff House and the village of Scoughall are visible to the left of the castle (see the Scotch Antiquities sketchbook Tate D13596; Turner Bequest CLXVII 7). Below this view is a separate sketch of Bass Rock, which is close to Tantallon to the north.
Although Turner changed the composition somewhat in his final design, this sketch contains most of the information that he incorporated into his illustration of Tantallon Castle, 1821 (Manchester City Galleries) for the Provincial Antiquities,2 where the viewer finds himself standing on a rocky outcrop beneath a cliff looking west across the water towards Tantallon with the Bass Rock on his right (see the Scotch Antiquities sketchbook, Tate D13593–D13594 and D13598–D13599; Turner Bequest CLXVII 5a, 6 and 8a–8b). To make this sketch, Turner must have been standing on an outcrop much like the one in the foreground of the Tantallon design, although he was perhaps further down the coast.

Thomas Ardill
October 2007

Finberg 1909, I, p.479, CLXV 34a.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1067.

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