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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Sound of Mull No. 2 sketchbook 1831

Turner Bequest CCLXXV
Small pocket book, with green and red marbled paper covers, blindstamped with the Turner Bequest stamp on the outside font cover at the upper left.
Six sheets of unwatermarked off-white wove paper by an unknown maker. Approximate page size: 153 x 91 mm
Numbered ‘384’ as part of the Turner Schedule in 1854 and endorsed by the executors of the Turner Bequest on the inside front cover (D41021).
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The Sound of Mull no.2 sketchbook is one of two books that Turner used during his steamboat journey from Oban to the Isle of Skye as part of a more extensive tour of Scotland in 1831 (see Tour of Scotland for Scott’s Poetical Works 1831 Tour Introduction). Leaving Oban Bay, Turner opened the Sound of Mull no.1 sketchbook (D26936–D26948; D26950–D26954; D41019–D41020 complete; Turner Bequest CCLXXIV) and filled its ten pages with views made as he steamed up the Sound of Mull. His boat then rounded Ardnamurchan Point and headed north. David Wallace-Hadrill and Janet Carolan identified a number of sketches in the first Sound of Mull book as Castle Tioram, suggesting that the boat must have made a detour some way into Loch Moidart,1 but the current author doubts those identifications (see Tate D26952; Turner Bequest CCLXXIV 9a). Instead the boat may have headed straight for Arisaig, where it stopped before heading on to Skye, where Turner landed at Advasar.
The pages of this book record the latter part of that journey with sketches starting at the Sound of Arisaig (inside front cover; D41021), and continuing until he approached Advasar (folio 3 verso; D26960). Many of the sketches were made at or near Arisaig and from Loch nan Ceall (folios 1 verso, 5–6 verso; D26956, D26963–D26965, D41022). Turner took a particular interest in views of Skye, especially of the Cuillin Mountains. There are also two sketches of a ruin on a headland that may be Aros Castle on the Sound of Mull (folios 2 verso–3; D26958–D26959), in which case they are out of sequence. None of the subjects drawn in this sketchbook was commissioned, and there are no sketches that suggest the germ of an idea for a finished picture. They simply demonstrate Turner’s roving eye as he restlessly waited for his arrival at Skye, a place he had apparently longed to visit.2
The two Sound of Mull sketchbooks have been described as ‘nothing but penny notebooks’3 and the present book has only six sheets of low quality paper bound between paper covers. The rough edges of folio 5 in the present book may be a result of how the paper was originally cut (or torn), rather than subsequent damage. Because they are of a poorer quality than most of Turner’s other sketchbooks it is thought that they were purchased on the road rather than brought from home. This may be why he decided to use them up during a single boat journey, thus saving pages in the Staffa (Tate D26748–D26834; D26836–D26935; D41086 complete; Turner Bequest CCLXXIII) and the Stirling and the West (Tate D26436–D26618; D41082–D41083 complete; Turner Bequest CCLXX) sketchbooks, which he used before and after these for more finished and important sketches.
Peter Bower, in the course of his examination of the different papers in the Turner Bequest, was unable to identify the maker or binder of the Sound of Mull sketchbooks.4 However, a curious inscription in brown ink on folios 1 verso and 2 (D26956–D26957), apparently not written by Turner, may provide a further clue of the origin of these two books. It may have been written by Robert Cadell who probably bought the Edinburgh sketchbook (D26096–D26258 complete; Turner Bequest CCLXVIII) from John Thomson’s shop near his office in St Andrew’s Square in Edinburgh. He may therefore have purchased the Sound of Mull books at the same time, and made a personal note in the present book before giving it to Turner.
The sketchbook is endorsed by Turner’s executors (Henry Scott Trimmer, John Prescott Knight and Charles Lock Eastlake) with inscriptions on the inside front cover (D41021), which follow the initials ‘RLB’ and ‘NJ’, who have not been identified.
David Wallace–Hadrill and Janet Carolan, ‘Turner on the Isle of Skye 1831’, [circa 1991], Tate catalogue files, [folio 6].
J.M.W. Turner to Sir Walter Scott, 20 April 1831, MS 3917, folios 270–270 verso, National Library of Scotland, Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, pp.84, 252 note 57.
Gerald Wilkinson, Turner’s Colour Sketches 1820–34, London 1975, p.69.
Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.56 cat.26.

Thomas Ardill
March 2010

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How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Sound of Mull No. 2 sketchbook 1831’, sketchbook, 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/sound-of-mull-no-2-sketchbook-r1135294, accessed 26 May 2024.