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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Edinburgh from the South-East with the Castle 1818

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 47 Verso:
Edinburgh from the South-East with the Castle 1818
Turner Bequest CLXV 47a
Pencil on white laid paper, 99 x 159 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Following a series of views in this sketchbook of Edinburgh from Craiglockhart and Braid Hill in the south (folios 44–46; D13399–D13403; Turner Bequest CLXV 44–46), this drawing of Edinburgh was probably made from Holyrood Park and may have been made on the return from the same outing. The composition is dominated by the castle and the rock upon which it stands, but unlike many of Turner’s studies of the castle, this one includes other identifiable nearby buildings to set it in context.
Flanking the castle on either side are Edinburgh’s two cathedrals, the Roman Catholic St Mary’s on the left with its tall central spire and two smaller spires, and, on the right, the distinctive spire of St Giles’s Cathedral, which featured in one of Turner’s designs for the Provincial Antiquities: Edinburgh High Street, circa 1818 (watercolour, Yale Centre for British Art).1 In front of the castle is the Grassmarket. Turner has clearly drawn Heriot’s Hospital to the right with its central domed tower, and what looks like Surgeon’s Hall to its left (although the building should be further to the east). Behind the city is the outline of the Grampian mountains.
In the top-right corner of the page Turner has made a thumbnail sketch of the same scene but with the intention of recording the weather rather than the topography. Large, low clouds frame the castle on either side, emphasising its height, and heavy hatching above indicates the dark sky; a deep shadow lies across the western half of the castle and rock.
The two versions of the same view on this page – one showing topography, the other weather – demonstrate Turner’s working methods on this 1818 Scottish tour, and indicate the singularity of purpose that is typical of these sketches. Each was made for a particular reason and performed a specific function in Turner’s artistic process.

Thomas Ardill
November 2007

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.426 no.1061.

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Edinburgh from the South-East with the Castle 1818 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, November 2007, 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-edinburgh-from-the-south-east-with-the-castle-r1131948, accessed 17 May 2022.