J.M.W. TURNER R.A.
Walter Fawkes, Farnley Hall, Wharfedale, North Yorkshire
Lord Bilsland, of Kinrara in the County of Inverness, K.T.
Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd.
Private Collection, UK
Leeds, City Art Gallery, Turner Watercolours from Farnley Hall, January 31 to February 28 1948, no. 34
London, Thos. Agnew and Sons Ltd, Annual Exhibition of Watercolours and Drawings, 1973, no.89
Aberdeen, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums, Turner in Scotland, 1982, no. 60
Walter Thornbury, The Life Of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Founded On Letters And Papers Furnished By His Friends And Fellow Academicians, Vol. 2, 1862, p. 394
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, London, 1979, no. 1054.
Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory, Turner as Illustrator to Scott, 1980,p.75
Evelyn Joll, Aberdeen: Turner in Scotland in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 124, no. 957 (Dec. 1982), pp. 786-788
Jan Piggott, Turner’s Vignettes, 1993, p.33
Keith Hanley, John Ruskin's Romantic Tours, 1837-1838: Travelling North, 2007, p.95
This important vignette by Turner was painted circa 1822 in connection with Walter Scott’s celebrated narrative poem ‘The Lady of the Lake’, first published in 1810. It concerns the struggle between James V and the powerful Douglas clan.
The Turner scholar Evelyn Joll reviewing the Aberdeen exhibition wrote ‘Two further watercolours deserve mention here, the marvellously evocative Glen Artney and Melrose Abbey (nos. 60 and 61) which were both commissioned c.1822 by Walter Fawkes to illustrate poems by Scott. The way in which the pink light on the mountain peaks in Glen Artney is reflected in the waters of the lock hundreds of feet below reveals Turner’s powers of observation at their most sensitive….’
The inscribed quotation comes from the first stanza of Canto I of Walter Scott’s ‘The Lady of the Lake’ which was first published in 1810 and again in Edinburgh in 1821. The scene of the poem is laid chiefly in the vicinity of Loch Katrine, in The Trossachs of Perthshire.
Andrew Wilton (no. 1054) observed that the image is not well-matched to the text.
Indeed this is so. The first Canto deals with ‘The Chase’, a stag hunt in ancient times where, in the evening, a large group of mounted huntsmen with ‘deep-mouthed bloodhounds’ find a stag at rest ‘In lone Glenartney's hazel shade’, and give chase with ‘clanging hoof and horn’.
First Canto, I.:
The stag at eve had drunk his fill,
Where danced the moon on Monan's rill,
And deep his midnight lair had made
In lone Glenartney's hazel shade;
But when the sun his beacon red
Had kindled on Benvoirlich's head,
The deep-mouthed bloodhound's heavy bay
Resounded up the rocky way,
And faint, from farther distance borne,
Were heard the clanging hoof and horn.
But for Turner, it is a solitary huntsman who on foot seeks the stag in Glen Artney rather than the raucous huntsmen and pack. In searching to convey Romantic nature, Turner may have conflated intentionally this image with details from later stanze. In these, the exhausted stag evades the huntsmen who all return home bar one man ‘The headmost horseman’ whose equally exhausted mount expires beneath him so that he continues alone. On foot, he emerges from the ‘broom’s tough roots’ and ‘the hazel saplings’ to discover Loch Katrine beneath him:
First Canto, XIV:
And now, to issue from the glen,
No pathway meets the wanderer's ken,
Unless he climb with footing nice
A far-projecting precipice.
The broom's tough roots his ladder made,
The hazel saplings lent their aid;
And thus an airy point he won,
Where, gleaming with the setting sun,
One burnished sheet of living gold,
Loch Katrine lay beneath him rolled,
In all her length far winding lay,
With promontory, creek, and bay,
And islands that, empurpled bright,
Floated amid the livelier light,
And mountains that like giants stand
To sentinel enchanted land.
High on the south, huge Benvenue
Down to the lake in masses threw
Crags, knolls, and mounds, confusedly hurled,
The fragments of an earlier world;
A wildering forest feathered o'er
His ruined sides and summit hoar,
While on the north, through middle air,
Ben-an heaved high his forehead bare.
And it is in a boat upon Loch Katrine that the foremost huntsman first sees Ellen Douglas, ‘The Lady of the Lake’.