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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Abbotsford 1831

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 16 Verso:
Abbotsford 1831
Turner Bequest CCLXVII 16a
Pencil on off-white wove writing paper, 113 x 185 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ‘Langlee’ centre left
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner had ample opportunity to sketch Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, while he was staying with the author from 5–9 August 1831, and did so on at least two occasions. One of these, recorded by Scott’s publisher Robert Cadell in his ‘Abbotsford Diary’, was on the return from Melrose on 8 August. Gerald Finley has identified three of the sketches that Cadell mentioned Turner making on this occasion. These are across folios 15 verso–16 (D25955–D25956; CCLXVII 15a–16) and on the present page.1 Cadell records that, ‘Mr Turner took two sketches from a high bank or scar above the Gala’ near Langlee to the north of the house.2 ‘Langlee’ is inscribed on the hill to the left of this sketch, confirming Finley’s identification of this sketch which is clearly from the north. The sketch continues very slightly onto folio 17 (D25958; CCLXVII 17).
A very similar view appears across folios 15 verso–16. The two sketches formed the basis of Turner’s watercolour, Abbotsford circa 1832 (private collection),3 engraved as the frontispiece to volume 12 of Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works. Although that design does not show a striking resemblance to this sketch, it must have been based on these two sketches, with reference to other sketches of the house for details. A red blotch of paint on folio 16 was probably made by the artist removing colour from an overloaded brush as he was painting either Abbotsford or Melrose 1831 (watercolour National Gallery of Scotland)4 the sketch for which also extends onto this page.
Cadell wrote that Turner took sketches from two further viewpoints on this occasion. These have been identified as sketches on folios 17 and 68 (D26048; CCLXVII 70). Further sketches of the outside of the house were made on other occasions on folios 17 verso, 18, 67 and 67 verso (D25959, D25960, D26046, D26047; CCLXVII 17a, 18, 69, 69a). There are sketches of the inside of the house on folios 62 verso to 66 verso (D26037–D26045; CCLXVII 64a–68a).
The sketch on folio 68 contributed towards Turner’s watercolour – Abbotsford from the Northern Banks of the Tweed circa 1838 (private collection)5 – this time to illustrate Lockhart’s Life of Scott. It may also have provided the basis of a watercolour sketch: Abbotsford circa 1832 (Hickman Bacon Collection),6 and a metal tray bearing a similar design – Abbotsford circa 1836 (Indianapolis Museum of Art)7 – although Andrew Wilton and Martin Butlin doubt that the latter is by Turner.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Finley 1972, p.383 note 143.
Robert Cadell, ‘Abbotsford Diary’, Monday 8 August 1831, National Library of Scotland, MS Acc. 5188, Box 12, folio 109; transcribed in Finley 1972, p.383.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.430 no.1093.
Ibid., p.428. no.1080.
Ibid., p.435 no.1142.
Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, p.223 pl.104 reproduced in black and white.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.306–7 no.524.

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Abbotsford 1831 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, September 2009, 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-abbotsford-r1134327, accessed 09 August 2022.