Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tantallon Castle


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 4

Catalogue entry

For this careful study of Tantallon Castle Turner walked around the cliff edge to the south-east. The drawing demonstrates how the castle is perched precariously on the edge of the cliff, which provided natural defence on three sides (the castle was protected from the west by a moat). In this sketch Turner has employed the method he learned at Munro’s Academy in the 1790s of using an interrupted or broken line to represent crumbling architecture. He has also added notes in a tiny, careful script, commenting on the various natural features depicted in the sketch and their colours.
To the left of the castle is the ancient dovecot, the only remaining building in the castle’s outer ward. The care taken over this sketch and its notes suggest that at the time it was made Turner may have considered it as a potential foundation for a watercolour commission. In the event he selected an alternative view as the basis of his Provincial Antiquities design (see folio 9; D13599; CLXVII 8b).

Thomas Ardill
February 2008

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