The Cobbler, Arrochar, Argyll and Bute, Scotland
1 January 1819
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This drawing was purchased in the very early days of the Gallery in the mistaken belief that it was an early work. In fact, it is probably a sheet from a roll-sketchbook (ie. a sketchbook without hard covers) that Turner used on his 1836 tour of Switzerland and subsequently broke up. Turner first visited Chillon in 1802 on his first Alpine tour, and two sketches from this tour form the basis for finished watercolours of 1809 showing the castle from the other side. In the meantime, in 1817, Byron published his celebrated poem, 'The Prisoner of Chillon'. Turner was well versed in Byron's works, having exhibited several paintings with Byronic themes or with quotations from the poet at the Royal Academy between 1818 and 1836, as well as having worked on a series of illustrations to Byron's poetry for the publisher John Murray in 1823-4 and 1830-1832. The choice of Chillon as a subject may well have been influenced, therefore, by Turner's knowledge of the Byron poem, but there is no hint of its dark subject matter.