Turner’s collaborative work with the celebrity author Sir Walter Scott resulted in some of the most beautiful watercolour illustrations ever produced. This business partnership of two cultural giants began in 1818 when Scott was Britain’s premier novelist and culminated in the publication of Turner’s illustrated editions of Scott’s poetry and prose works after the author’s death in 1832. The sometimes strained and frosty relationship between artist and author had as many twists and turns as a novel, from accusations of ‘slurring’ and palms ‘itchy’ for money, to the warm welcome Turner received in 1831 as he arrived at Scott’s family home in the Scottish Borders. During his stay at Abbotsford he was tasked with getting to know the man behind the writing and sketching and exploring a landscape that Scott had helped to put on the map.
Charting their lives and careers side by side, the exhibition explores how and why the sparks flew, but also reveals that there was a great deal of common ground between Scott and Turner, perhaps more than either man appreciated.
In one particular sketchbook of the three hundred or so that Turner used throughout his life, the artist recorded his visual impressions of Abbotsford, both inside and out. This is one of the most precious visual sources in Abbotsford’s history, allowing to place features, objects in our collections and even planting schemes just as they were during Scott’s lifetime.
In 2011, the Abbotsford Trust was able to acquire two original watercolours by Turner with the kind support of the Art Fund. They are part of an original set commissioned in 1831 to illustrate a set of Scott’s poetry and this is the first time these watercolours have been on display at Abbotsford.