Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Sound of Mull with Ardtornish Castle from the West


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 116 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXIII 51

Catalogue entry

The sketches on this page begin a sequence of studies of the ruins of Ardtornish Castle, made as Turner travelled down the Sound of Mull towards Oban. The sketches on the present page, inscribed ‘Ardnish’, show the ruin at a distance from the west. Sketches on folios 51 verso–52 verso (D2684–D26843) were made as Turner approached the castle, and over folios 53–55 (D26844–D26848) the sketches show Turner passing the castle as he steamed towards Oban. These drawings are part of a longer sequence charting Turner’s return from Tobermory to Oban (folios 48–57 verso; D26833–D26852).
These sketches have not previously been identified, and were misidentified by David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan as Tioram Castle in Loch Moidard.1 Although Turner never developed the subject of Ardtornish Castle as a finished design, he may have considered it at the time as a priority to sketch. When Turner discussed with Sir Walter Scott and his publisher Robert Cadell what subjects to illustrate for the Lord of the Isles volume of the new edition of the poet’s Poetical Works, ‘Artornish with a rainbow’ was one of the subjects considered.2 Ardtornish had probably been officially dropped by the time Turner came to drawn it, as it is not among a list of chosen subjects that the artist wrote in the inside front cover of the Abbotsford sketchbook (Tate D40995). However, the fact that it was under consideration may have made Turner intrigued enough to make sure he collected a number of useful sketches.
In the top sketch on this page the castle ruin can be seen on a headland at the centre of the page. The position of the headland in relation to the coast of Morvern behind suggests that the view is from the Sound of Mull near Salen. This means that having completed sketches of Aros Castle and Salen on folio 50 verso (D26839), Turner immediately turned to the east to sketch this distant view of Ardtornish Castle. The second sketch shows the same stretch of coast with the distant hills having shifted just a little in relation to each other as Turner’s vantage point changed. The castle ruins are represented as a small square at the centre of the sketch. By the third sketch down, drawn with sketchbook inverted, we have moved closer still to the headland on which the castle sits, so that the space between the two coastlines has opened up. The castle itself, however, is not visible.

Thomas Ardill
March 2010

David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner on Mull and Staffa’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, [folios 28, 34].
Finley 1980, p.243.

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