Joseph Mallord William Turner

Temple of the Muses, Dryburgh


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVII 76

Catalogue entry

With the sketchbook inverted and continued slightly on folio 73 verso (D26059; CCLXVII 75a) is the view north from Dryburgh Abbey (see folio 9; D25942; CCLXVII 9). Looking along the River Tweed, which runs north at this point, with Black Hill in the background at the left is a cylindrical structure on a slight rise to the right of the river. This is the Temple of the Muses, a Greek pavilion erected by the 11th Earl of Buchan as a tribute to the poet James Thomson. Thomson was a favourite poet of Turner who appended lines from The Seasons to many of his exhibits at the Royal Academy; Turner’s fragment poem, The Fallacies of Hope, was also largely inspired by the work.1
It is little wonder, therefore, that he made this sketch, and that the pavilion is included in his watercolour of Dryburgh Abbey circa 1832 (Tate N05241).2 There it appears as a tiny white dot just above the abbey itself. That Turner did not visit the temple – there are no further sketches and Robert Cadell makes no mention of it in his diary entry of the day – despite crossing Lord Buchan’s suspension bridge nearby, can be explained by his busy itinerary that day which was described by Robert Cadell as ‘a great day of business’ which left ‘Mr Turner [...] much tired’.3

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Jan Piggott, ‘James Thomson’, Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.336.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.428 no.1078.
Robert Cadell, ‘Abbotsford Diary’, folio 108 verso–109, 8 August 1831, National Library of Scotland, MS Acc.5188, Box 1; quoted in Gerald E. Finley, ‘J.M.W. Turner and Sir Walter Scott: Iconography of a Tour’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol.31, 1972, pp.382–3.

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