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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Loch Leven and the Pap of Glencoe from Ballachulish 1831

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 2 Recto:
Loch Leven and the Pap of Glencoe from Ballachulish 1831
Turner Bequest CCLXXIII 2
Pencil on white wove paper, 186 x 116 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ‘Baleachulich’ upper right
Inscribed in blue ink by John Ruskin ‘2’ top right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXIII 2’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
These three views made near Ballachulish appear to be the first that Turner made during his diversion to Glencoe, from his steamboat journey from Oban to Inverness via Fort William and Fort Augustus. Although it was apparently not a scheduled stop, Turner broke his journey up Loch Linnhe by stopping at North Ballachulish.1 Here he made his first sketches of Loch Leven and the Pap of Glenco, before crossing by ferry to South Ballachulish and travelling east along Loch Leven to the village of Ballachulish, and from there on to Glencoe. It can be stated with certainty that Turner went at least a mile past Loch Achtriochtan in Glencoe (see folio 31; D26801), and David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan have suggested that the sketch on folio 32 verso (D26803) may indicate that he reached the end of the glen where Glencoe and Glen Etive come together, at the western end of Rannoch Moor near the Kings House Hotel.2 This identification, however, is uncertain and there are no sketches between Loch Achtriochtan and this point to confirm it. From Glencoe he returned to Ballachulish to continue up Loch Linnhe.
This diversion from the scheduled journey north may have been self-motivated, as Turner had not at this stage been commissioned by Sir Walter Scott, or anybody else, to make a picture of Glencoe. Passing within five miles or so of Glencoe as he travelled up Loch Linnhe, however, it is not surprising that Turner took the opportunity to see the site of the famous 1692 ‘Massacre of Glencoe’, written about by Scott in his short story The Highland Widow (1827) and in Tales of a Grandfather (1829, vol.IV, chapter 58). Even if Turner had not anticipated that he might one day be asked to illustrate the subject for Scott, he would have foreseen that sketches of the famous site might prove useful for a Romantic painting. The visit did prove useful as Turner was later commissioned to paint a watercolour of Glencoe to be engraved for Scott’s Prose Works: Glencoe circa 1833 (Rhode Island School of Design);3 although the design was not closely based on any one of his sketches.
The sketch at the top of the page, inscribed ‘Baleachulich’, looks west from North Ballachulish towards the mouth of Loch Leven and across Loch Linnhe towards the mountains of Morvern. The peak in the distance is presumably Garbh Bheinn. In the foreground is the pier where Turner must have landed, and from where he crossed to South Ballachulish which can be seen across the loch at the right of the sketch. At the right of the sketch are two figures enjoying the view as Turner did and perhaps waiting for a boat.
The middle and bottom sketches look east across Loch Leven towards the mountains of Glencoe, with the Pap of Glencoe at the left and the peak of Sgirr nam Fiannaidh to the right. The different viewpoints of the two sketches suggest, to David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, that the sketches were separated by the crossing of the Leven by ferry, making the first a view from North Ballachulish and the second a view from South Ballachulish.4
There are further views made at Ballachulish on the following pages of this sketchbook: folios 4, 4 verso, 16 verso, 27, 36 verso–37 verso (D26754, D26755, D26773, D26793, D26810–D26812). Sketches of the approach to Glencoe and looking east up the glen are on folios 25–26 verso, 31, 32 verso, 33, 34, 35 verso, 36 verso, 37 and 74 verso (D26789–D26792, D26801, D26803, D26804, D26805, D26808, D26810, D26811, D26887). Views west up Glencoe, perhaps made on the return to Ballachulish, are on folios 10–11, 17–18, and 33 (D26763–D26765, D26774–D26776, D26804).

Thomas Ardill
March 2010

David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner’s Journey from Oban to Inverness, 1831’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, [folios 2, 12].
Ibid., [folio 4].
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.433 no.1126.
Wallace-Hadrill and Carolan [circa 1991], [folio 2].

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Loch Leven and the Pap of Glencoe from Ballachulish 1831 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2010, 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-leven-and-the-pap-of-glencoe-from-ballachulish-r1135108, accessed 20 May 2022.