J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner A Sketch of Two Sitting Figures Surrounded by Sketches of Arran, East Tarbert and Knock Castle 1831

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 78 Recto:
A Sketch of Two Sitting Figures Surrounded by Sketches of Arran, East Tarbert and Knock Castle 1831
Turner Bequest CCLXX 78
Pencil on white wove paper, 125 x 201 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ‘Arran’ top centre, ‘Knock’ bottom centre descending vertically, ‘Loch Cors’ left running vertically
Inscribed in red ink by John Ruskin ‘78’ top left inverted
Stamped in black ‘CCLXX – 78’ top left inverted
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Because it fills the centre of the page with the other sketches fitted around it, the sketch of two sitting figures (drawn with the sketchbook held with the fore-edge at the top) was probably the first to be made on this page. The two figures wear coats and large hats and appear to be reading, the one on the right apparently holding a book or newspaper. They are evidently outside, and therefore perhaps waiting or resting. Beyond that, it is impossible to say who these people might be or where they are, except that they were drawn at some point after Turner left Edinburgh for Stirling (when he first used this sketchbook), but before he reached the mouth of Loch Fyne on his way to Islay via East Tarbert (when he made his next sketch on the page). We may speculate, from the orientation of the sketch on the page and the subject of two figures resting or waiting, that the drawing was made at the same time as Turner’s sketch of the landing at Inversnaid on Loch Lomond (folio 92; D26617). This would make these fellow travellers who were, like Turner, waiting at Inversnaid to take the steamboat down Loch Lomond. However, there is no further evidence for this speculation.
As mentioned above, the second sketch to be made on the page was executed at the mouth of Loch Fyne. This sketch, at the fore-edge of the page and drawn parallel to it, is inscribed ‘arran’ and shows the mountainous island from the mouth of the loch to the north. Turner made the sketch as he travelled by steamboat from Glasgow to Islay via the Firth of Clyde, the Kyles of Bute, Loch Fyne, across the Kintyre peninsula from East Tarbert (also sketched on this page) to West Tarbert and on to Port Askaig on Islay.1 There are further sketches of the Isle of Arran from this point on folio 66 (D26566).
With the sketchbook turned to the left is a sketch of East Tarbert on the Kintyre Peninsula with Tarbert Castle on a hill at the left. The view is therefore from the east of the town looking towards the mouth of East Loch Tarbert. Turner made a number of sketches of East Tarbert in this sketchbook when he passed through it on his way to and from Islay (see folio 88 verso; D26610).
At the centre of the page is a sketch inscribed ‘Knock’, which has been identified as Knock Castle (or Castle Camus) on the south-east coast of Skye.2 Turner seems to have been running out of paper by this stage of his journey, as the sketch is squeezed into what was a very small area of blank paper. The view seems to be from the south-west, showing the ruin on a promontory at the north of Knock Bay with hills behind. Turner headed for Knock Castle after landing at Ardvasar nearly four miles to the south-west. The castle was a stronghold of the MacDonalds, and the connection with the Lords of the Isles may have been of interest to Turner, although it had no connection to Sir Walter Scott, on whose commission Turner was in Scotland in 1831. From here he headed north and then west to the west coast of Sleat, from where he crossed Lochs Eishort and Slapin to reach Loch Coruisk. Further sketches of Knock Castle are distributed throughout the Stirling and the West sketchbook, apparently drawn wherever Turner had space to fit them: folios 76 verso, 83, 91 and 92 verso (D26587, D26599, D26615, D26618).
For more information on the itinerary of Turner’s tour of Scotland, see Tour of Scotland for Scott’s Poetical Works 1831 Tour Introduction.

Thomas Ardill
March 2010

The tour is discussed in David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner Round the Clyde and Islay – 1831’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files.
David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner on the Isle of Skye 1831’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, [folio 12].

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘A Sketch of Two Sitting Figures Surrounded by Sketches of Arran, East Tarbert and Knock Castle 1831 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2010, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-a-sketch-of-two-sitting-figures-surrounded-by-sketches-of-r1135024, accessed 29 March 2020.