Joseph Mallord William Turner

Dunstanborough Castle

c.1806–7

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 188 x 270 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D08118
Turner Bequest CXVI Q

Catalogue entry

Engraved:
Etching, aquatint and mezzotint by J.M.W. Turner and Charles Turner, ‘Duntanborough [sic] Castle the Picture in the possession of W,, Penn Esqr.’, published Charles Turner, 10 June 1808
Dunstanburgh Castle is on the coast of Northumberland, about seven miles north-east of Alnwick.1 Turner first visited the site on his 1797 tour of the north of England, and was still painting the long-ruined castle in the 1830s.2 Three other Liber Studiorum designs were based on drawings from the same tour: Holy Island Cathedral, The Crypt of Kirkstall Abbey and Norham Castle on the Tweed (see Tate D08115, D08142, D08158; Turner Bequest CXVI N, CXVII O, CXVIII D).
Turner had initially produced two oil paintings: one was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1798 (322) as Dunstanborough Castle, N.E. Coast of Northumberland. Sun-rise after a Squally Night (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne);3 the other, possibly a study for the exhibited picture, is smaller, with a stormier sea and dark rocks in the right foreground rising to eclipse the skyline of the castle (Dunedin Public Art Gallery).4 A watercolour version dating from about the same time is close to the Dunedin composition, though not so stormy (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne).5
Although the lettering of the Liber print refers explicitly to the exhibited (Melbourne) painting, then owned by W. Penn, there are significant differences. All the finished works show the castle from the south; the Lilburn Tower (with four turrets) to the left of the two round towers flanking the gateway in the Liber design, is shown some way to their right in the Melbourne painting, implying a viewpoint some way further east; conversely, in the smaller painting and watercolour, it appears further to the left, implying a shift in viewpoint to the west. For the Liber, Turner went back to his pencil drawing in the North of England sketchbook of 1797 (Tate D00952; Turner Bequest XXXIV 45); the details and juxtapositions of the elements on the skyline correspond very closely.
1
Turner favoured the spelling ‘Dunstanborough’, but the ‘-burgh’ form is now generally used.
2
Joll 1988, pp.3–7; Hill 1997, pp.72–7.
3
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.4–5 no.6, pl.4 (colour).
4
Ibid., pp.23–4 no.32, pl.28 (colour).
5
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.331 no.284.
6
Forrester 1996, p.61.
7
Thomas Girtin and David Loshak, The Art of Thomas Girtin, London 1954, pp.143 no.72, 156 nos.162, 159 no.183.
8
Cook and Wedderburn VII 1903, pp.433, 434.
9
Rawlinson 1878, p.35.
10
Joll 1988, p.7.
11
Hill 1997, p.73; see also Brooke 1885, p.50.
12
Forrester 1996, pp.160–1 (transcribed).
13
Finberg 1924, p.xliii; Forrester 1996, pp.13–14.
14
Forrester 1996, p.162 (transcribed).
15
Rawlinson 1878, pp.30–9; 1906, pp.37–48; Finberg 1924, pp.45–64.
16
Forrester 1996, p.90.
17
Wilton 1979, p.395 no.814, reproduced.
18
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.206–7 no.357, pl.360 (colour).
1
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

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