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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Craigmillar Castle 1818

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 73 Verso:
Craigmillar Castle 1818
Turner Bequest CLXVII 85a
Pencil on white wove paper, 112 x 186 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ‘Scotch work | 6 =’ | by | 7 ¾ | [?]11 =’ by 6 ¾ | Rhine Work’ bottom left
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner is known to have visited Craigmillar Castle with two of the other Provincial Antiquities contributing artists – Reverend John Thomson of Duddingston and High William Williams – to make sketches of the subject that was to be included in the publication. Thomson entertained the other two artists at his residence, the Manse, which was just a mile north of the castle, and Turner is reputed to have chased after Mrs Thomson when she snatched up one of his sketchbooks to examine his drawings, retrieving the book before she had time to open it.1
Perhaps Turner knew that Thomson, rather than he, would be commissioned for the Craigmillar view as he only made three sketches of castle. The present view looks over a bank or rough moss-covered wall towards the south-west corner of the castle with the central turn-of-the fifteenth century Tower House at the left, and the mid seventeenth-century West Range to the right. Although the castle had by then lost its roofs the stonework was in 1818, and still is, in remarkably good condition. To the left of these main structures is the wall of the enclosed west garden, and beyond that part of the perimeter wall. There are two further sketches of Craigmillar in this sketchbook on folios 74 verso and 77 (D13707, D13710; CLXVII 67a, 68a).
At the bottom left of the page are inscriptions referring to ‘Scotch work’ and ‘Rhine work’. These numbers are presumably proposed dimensions for two projects that Turner was engaged in while he was using this sketchbook: the Provincial Antiquities publication, and a proposed but unrealised series of prints of views along the Rhine with W.B. Cooke, John Muuray and J.C. Allen.2 However the numbers do not match either the watercolours made of these projects or the engravings after them. ‘6 by 7 3/4’ inches is smaller than the average 7 by 10 inches of the Provincial Antiquities watercolours, and the average 10 by 13 inches of the final engravings. The proposed Rhine Work dimensions, ‘11 by 6 3/4’ are closer to the average 7 by 11 1/2 inches of the watercolours known to have been prepared for the unrealised projects. The actual dimensions of the Provincial Antiquities watercolours is given in the inscription at the back of this sketchbook, ‘6 1/2 by 9 1/2’ (D40916), presumably made at a later date when Turner had settled on a format for the paintings.
A tear at the bottom left of the page has been repaired. The pink smudge at the bottom left has bled through from Ruskin’s red ink number on the other side of the page.

Thomas Ardill
April 2008

Katrina Thomson, Turner and Sir Walter Scott: The Provincial Antiquities and Picturesque Scenery of Scotland, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 1999, p.28.
For more about the Rhine project see Dr Cecilia Powell in Martin Butlin, Evelyn Joll and Luke Herrmann, The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford, 2001 pp.262–3.

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Craigmillar Castle 1818 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, April 2008, 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-craigmillar-castle-r1132260, accessed 25 June 2022.