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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Kelso 1831

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 19 Verso:
Kelso 1831
Turner Bequest CCLXVII 19a
Pencil on off-white wove writing paper, 113 x 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner arrived in Kelso late on 9 August 1831 but went straight to bed. It was his second trip to the town, his first being in 1797. The next morning he set off early and was making studies of the ruins from close quarters by seven o’clock (folios 56–57; D26024–D26026; CCLXVII 58–59). Robert Cadell, who had accompanied the artist from Abbotsford the previous day, joined him here and the two men crossed the River Tweed by Kelso Bridge from where Turner made several further sketches (folio 21 verso; D25965; CCLXVII 21a), including the one on the present page. They then set off for nearby Roxburgh Castle (folio 22 verso; D25967; CCLXVII 22a), and from nearby Turner made another sketch of the abbey (folios 54 verso–55; D26021–D25022; CCLXVII 56a–57).1
The present sketch is the source of Turner’s watercolour, Kelso circa 1832 (whereabouts unknown),2 engraved for volume 3 of Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works.3 The view is from across the River Tweed to the south-east of the abbey, which is shown at the left of folio 20 (D25963; CCLXVII 20) where this drawing continues. Kelso Bridge fills the centre of the present page, and a little sketch at the bottom left shows one of the bridge’s pilasters. Above the bridge at the right of the present page is the Town House. The southern banks of the river are shown in the foreground at the left and right of the sketch, with a figure standing at the left who may be Robert Cadell.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Robert Cadell, ‘Abbotsford Diary’, Tuesday 10 August, National Library of Scotland, MS Acc.5188, Box 1, folio 111; transcribed in Finley 1972, p.384.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.427 no.1074.
Finley 1972, p.384 note 146.

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Kelso 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-kelso-r1134332, accessed 26 January 2022.