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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Inveraray Castle and Town, Scotland c.1808

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Inveraray Castle and Town, Scotland circa 1808
Turner Bequest CXVIII K
Watercolour on off-white wove writing paper, 197 x 265 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom left
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Etching and mezzotint by J.M.W. Turner and Charles Turner, ‘Inverary Castle and Town, Scotland.’, published J.M.W. Turner, ?1 January 1819 although dated 1 January 1816
Turner’s Liber Studiorum design shows Inveraray (which he gave as ‘Inverary’), Argyll and Bute. He had visited the town, about forty miles north-west of Glasgow, on the western leg of his first Scottish tour in 1801. It lies on the shore of Loch Fyne, with the inlet of Loch Shira to the north, and is here seen from the south, with its eighteenth-century castle, seat of the Dukes of Argyll, below the prominent central hill of Duniquoich (or Dùn na Cuaiche).
Although Turner was careful to mention him in the lettering of the print, he presumably no longer had access to the watercolour which the 5th Duke had commissioned, Loch Fyne, with Inverary Castle in the Distance, of around 1802–5 (Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, Japan);1 the Liber composition follows it in only the most generalised compositional points, although the blustery conditions are common to both. Ruskin (referring to Turner’s etching work in the published Liber engraving, which emphasises the motion further) admired the two trees ‘in perfect poise, representing a double action: the warping ... away from the sea-wind, and the continual growing out of the boughs on the right-hand side, to recover the balance.’2
There are various sketches and colour studies showing Inveraray from similar viewpoints, usually with a repoussoir headland in the foreground, including tonal ‘Scottish Pencil’ studies (Tate D03388, D03390; Turner Bequest LVIII 9, 11) and watercolour studies (Tate D03632, D03641; Turner Bequest LX A, J). Another finished watercolour, Inverary, Loch Fyne, circa 1803 (Manchester Art Gallery)3 shows a similar, canopied boat beached on a spit in the foreground, but with the town very much closer, filling the space beyond. In 1811, Turner had shown Loch Shira in another Liber plate, Inverary-Pier. Loch Fyne. Morning4 (for which no preliminary Liber-type drawing is known, although it relates closely to a watercolour study: Tate D03633; Turner Bequest LX B).
The composition is noted, as ‘C Turner Inverary – M’, with various other Liber subjects inside the back cover of the Liber Notes (1) sketchbook (Tate D40871; Turner Bequest CXLIII); Gillian Forrester dates Turner’s list to 1815, as this and another subject were printed by the beginning of 1816.5 It is noted again, as ‘Inverary | C Turner ... 13’, in a list (now rubbed and difficult to decipher) of Liber works in progress around 1817–18 inside the back cover of the Aesacus and Hesperie sketchbook (Tate D40933; Turner Bequest CLXIX).6
The Liber Studiorum etching and mezzotint engraving, etched by Turner and engraved by Charles Turner, bears the publication date 1 January 1816 and was issued to subscribers as ‘Inverary Castle and Town, Scotland. | the Drawing in the Possession of the Duke of Argyle.’ in part 13 (Rawlinson/Finberg nos.62–66;7 see also Tate D08163, D08164, D08166; Turner Bequest CXVIII J, L, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII I); other prints in this part are dated 1 January 1819. Tate holds impressions of the preliminary outline etching (Tate A01136) and the published engraving (A01137). It is one of fourteen published Liber Studiorum subjects in Turner’s ‘Mountainous’ category (see also Tate D08113, D08119, D08123, D08130, D08134, D08148, D08153, D08156, D08161, D08164; Turner Bequest CXVI L, R, V, CXVII C, G, T, Y, CXVIII J, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII B, G).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.339 no.349, reproduced.
Cook and Wedderburn VII 1903, p.87 (detail of etching reproduced, fig.56).
Wilton 1979, p.340 no.352, reproduced.
Rawlinson 1878, pp.73–5 no.35; 1906, pp.85–8 no.35; Finberg 1924, pp.137–40 no.35.
Forrester 1996, p.159 (transcribed).
Ibid., p.163 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.126–34; 1906, pp.148–58; Finberg 1924, pp.245–64.
Technical notes:
The sheet was unevenly prepared with size, and not properly wetted in the sky. There is light scratching-out and some washing-out for the lights; possibly different scratching tools were used. The trees have a spluttered appearance as though another tool than a brush was used to apply the watercolour. Elsewhere, the same watercolour wash was applied with a brush, so heavily it appears glossy. Scratching-out through the dark washes gives a dramatic contrast. The overall very warm brown colour results from the use of a single Indian red shade.1
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘65’ centre
Stamped in black ‘[crown] | N•G | CXVIII – K’ bottom left
The sheet is abraded in places where it was formerly stuck down.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Inveraray Castle and Town, Scotland c.1808 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 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-inveraray-castle-and-town-scotland-r1131768, accessed 20 June 2024.