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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Loch Katrine 1831

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 47 Recto:
Loch Katrine 1831
Turner Bequest CCLXX 47
Pencil on white wove paper, 125 x 201 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ‘Br’ left
Inscribed in red ink by John Ruskin ‘47’ bottom left descending vertically
Stamped in black ‘CCLXX – 47’ bottom left descending vertically
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This sketch of Loch Katrine with the mountain of Ben Venue formed the basis of Turner’s watercolour of Loch Katrine circa 1832 (British Museum),1 which was engraved to illustrate volume 8 of Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works, The Lady of the Lake in 1834.
The view is from the lower slopes of Ben A’an on the north shore of the loch at its east end. It looks south-west across the loch to Ben Venue with Ellen’s Island (or Eilean Molach) at the right of the sketch. The slopes of the north bank are shown in the foreground, and the east end of the loch is seen at the left inscribed ‘Br’, presumably meaning brown as this is the colour it appears in the watercolour. Sketches on folios 45 verso and 46 verso (D26525, D26527) depict views from the same spot and were probably also referred to for details of certain parts of the sketch such as Ben Venue and the island. There are also similar views on folios 35–36 verso (D26504–D26507).
A number of subjects in the Trossachs had been suggested by Scott and his publisher Robert Cadell for the frontispiece and vignette illustrations of The Lady of the Lake, including Ben Venue (see folio 46 verso). It is not clear whether Turner knew when he made this sketch that Loch Katrine was to be the frontispiece. It had been proposed on 1 August, but Turner seems to have expressed reservations about the subjects as, following his meeting with Scott and Cadell, it was on 6 August considered tentative.2 Turner and Cadell discussed illustrations for The Lady of the Lake on 14 September,3 and on 17 September the subjects proposed for the vignette illustration were Loch Achray, the Trossachs or Ben Venue, with ‘Island Lake’ for the frontispiece. Finley has suggested that ‘Inch Cailloch’ (also written Inchcailloch) was the island in question,4 but another possibility should also be considered: Ellen’s Island which appears in Turner’s sketch and watercolour of Loch Katrine. A sketch on folio 28 verso (D26491) may be of Inchcailloch, but the identification is tentative, and even if it is, the sketch is slight and uninspiring as the source for an illustration. Ellen’s Island is particularly significant to Scott’s Lady of the Lake, as it is the location for much of the drama, especially Canto II: The Island (Lady of the Lake, 1810). The island is quite clear in the current sketch and another on folio 46 verso pays particular attention to it. In Turner’s watercolour it is made prominent by appearing dark against the pale water.
Turner’s interest in the loch and the Trossachs was typical of travellers and tourists at this time, which was in no small part due to the writing of Walter Scott. As Alistair Durie has written:
the effect of the publication of Scott’s Lady of the Lake in May 1810 [...] was dramatic. It sold 20,000 copies in the year and triggered a rush of visitors to the locality [...]. For the Trossachs the results were immediate and startling.5
It is known that Turner was familiar with Scott’s poem from as early as 1811,6 and he no doubt discussed it with the author when he stayed at Abbotsford during an earlier leg of the 1831 tour. The artist therefore knew that this sketch had at least the potential to become the basis of an illustration, and it is consequently carefully drawn and composed. In the event the composition changed very little, other than extending the view very slightly at the left.
From the sheer number of sketches of Loch Katrine and Ben Venue in this sketchbook (see below) it is obvious that the loch was the main purpose of Turner’s expedition from Dumbarton via Loch Lomond and Loch Arklet.7 Turner arrived at Stronachlachar from Loch Arklet (folios 22–22 verso; D26478–D26479) and appears to have taken a boat from here along the length of the loch to the landing at the east end (folio 27; D26488).8 This was the area of the loch around Ellen’s Island and Ben Venue that he was most interested in.
Views of Loch Katrine not already mentioned appear on folios 24, 24 verso, 26–28, 31–32 verso, 40 verso, 41 verso–42 verso, 43 verso–45 and 48 (D26482, D26483, D26486–D26490, D26496–D26499, D26515–D26518, D26519, D26521–D26524, D26530), and perhaps also on 29 verso, 30 verso, 32 verso and 43 verso (D26493, D26495, D26499, D26521), though these suggestions remain tentative.9 There are further sketches of the loch in the Loch Long sketchbook (Tate D26639, D26640, D26645, D26650; Turner Bequest CCLXXI 11, 11a, 14 and 16 verso). Rather than using both books at once, the artist may have used the present sketchbook on his journey to Loch Achray, and then used the Loch Long sketchbook for further sketches on his return to Loch Lomond.

Thomas Ardill
October 2009

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.429 no.1084.
Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, p.242.
Finley 1980, p.136.
Ibid., p.242
Alistair J. Durie, Scotland for the Holidays: A History of Tourism in Scotland, 1780 – 1939, East Luton, Scotland 2003, pp.45–6.
John Gage, Collected Correspondence of J.M.W. Turner with an Early Diary and a Memoir by George Jones, Oxford 1980, pp.46–7 letter 38 note 47.
David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan proposed this itinerary based on research into steamboat routes and timetables, ‘Turner Round the Clyde and In Islay – 1831’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files.
Ibid. folios 3–5.
All these identifications were made by either A.J. Finberg or David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan: Finberg 1909, II, pp.868–71; Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan, ‘Turner Round the Clyde and In Islay – 1831’.

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Loch Katrine 1831 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, October 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-loch-katrine-r1134962, accessed 27 February 2021.