Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXVII 6

Catalogue entry

Here is a view of Bass Rock from the shore, continued from folio 5 verso (D13593; CLXVII 5a) where the nearby Tantallon Castle is seen from across a bay to the west. Although it is drawn with great economy, there is a lot of detail in the depiction of Bass Rock, with its ancient fortifications clearly visible. Beyond the rock on the far side of the Firth of Forth is the coastline of Fife (evidently drawn by Turner before adding the island which overlaps with it). The cliff upon which he stood to make the sketch is shown in the foreground at the bottom of the page.
The double-page sketch is regarded as the basis of Turner’s watercolour, Tantallon Castle, 1821 (1821, Manchester City Galleries),1 made for the Provincial Antiquities. But while the sketch of the castle and rock were probably based on the current drawing, the vantage point is shifted to the rocks beneath the cliff where we now stand (see folios 8 verso and 9; D13598–D13599; CLXVII 8a–8b).
There is a small brown mark at the lower centre of the page.

Thomas Ardill
February 2008

Wilton 1979, p.426 no. 1067.

Read full Catalogue entry


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