Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tantallon Castle, Dunbar and Bass Rock


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 187 × 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CC 80

Catalogue entry

With the book turned to the left are six sketches of the East Lothian coast, made as Turner returned from Edinburgh to London by boat (see folio 78 verso; D17645 for details). Having passed between Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock Turner made a final sketch of each subject on this page. At the top is Tantallon Castle, seen from some distance to the east with the conical hill of North Berwick Law behind it to the west. Bass Rock is shown at the bottom of the page.
The other four sketches on this page, previously unidentified, are all of Dunbar, made as Turner passed the town travelling east. The second-to-bottom sketch shows a view of the castle from the north-west with the Long Craigs to the right and the town beyond to the left. The most prominent parts of the castle are the gatehouse (a square shape with an arch in it), the South Battery to the right and the ruins to the left which are no longer extant (see Tate D13619; Turner Bequest CLXVII 20). Above this the sketch shows the castle ruins and the Long Craigs. The third sketch down was made as Turner got closer to the shore and nearer to the harbour. The castle ruins are again shown at the right, with the harbour and old Dunbar Battery to the left. Beyond the town are the Lammermuir Hills. The final sketch of Dunbar, the second from top, is again from further east with the castle ruins at the far right, the harbour and battery in the middle, and the town to the left.
The three subjects depicted on this page were all sites illustrated by Turner for the Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland. By now his Tantallon Castle, 1821 (Manchester City Art Galleries)1 had been published (in the sixth number), though he was yet to submit his designs for Dunbar, circa 1823 (private collection)2 or Bass Rock, circa 1824 (National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside).3 This final opportunity to see and sketch these sites was not to be missed.

Thomas Ardill
August 2008

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1067.
Ibid., no.1066.
Ibid., no.1069.

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