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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Melrose Vale 1831

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 1 Verso:
Melrose Vale 1831
Turner Bequest CCLXVII 1a
Pencil on off-white wove writing paper, 113 x 185 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ?‘Wan’ top left
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner passed through Melrose Vale on 6 August 1831 on his return to Abbotsford from Smailholm Tower and Bemerside, and is reported to have been ‘greatly pleased with the turns of the Tweed about Old Melrose and Gladwood’.1 However, he is not reported to have made any sketches on that occasion so the present sketch is likely to have been made on 8 August when Turner visited Melrose Abbey and made various sketches of it and the vale.2 The view was made while Turner was travelling from Dryburgh to Melrose, and looks west along the River Tweed and Melrose Vale with the Eildon Hills at the left. At the right of the page is a peel tower.
Turner’s sketch of Melrose on folios 14 verso–15 of this sketchbook (D25953–D25954; CCLXVII 14a–15) was used as the basis for his watercolour, Melrose 1831 (The National Gallery of Scotland),3 which was engraved to illustrate volume 6 of Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Robert Cadell, Abbotsford Diary, Saturday 6 August 1831, folio 107, National Library of Scotland, MS Acc.5188, Box 1; quoted in Gerald E. Finley, ‘J.M.W. Turner and Sir Walter Scott: Iconography of a Tour’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol.31, 1972, p.381.
Ibid., pp.382–3.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.428 no.1080.

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Melrose Vale 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-melrose-vale-r1134300, accessed 20 January 2021.