Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Flint Castle

c.1834–5

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour and chalk on paper
Dimensions
Support: 304 x 489 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D36319
Turner Bequest CCCLXV 28

Catalogue entry

Andrew Wilton noted that the ‘figure on horseback and train of animals suggests a location such as Lancaster Sands’1 – see the watercolour Lancaster Sands of about 1818 (Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery),2 and another of about 1826 (British Museum, London),3 engraved in 1828 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04534, T04535).
However, the principal focus in both Lancaster Sands works is a stagecoach, not hinted at here. Eric Shanes has instead, tentatively at first, compared this colour study to the watercolour Flint Castle, North Wales of about 1834–5 (National Museum Wales, Cardiff),4 engraved in 1836 for England and Wales (Tate impressions: T05873, T06121).5 The castle, which Turner had first visited in 1794,6 stands on the Welsh west bank of the broad, tidal Dee Estuary. Later Shanes was more conclusive, noting ‘the beached boats in the centre distance, the adjacent horses and carts (but facing in the opposite direction), a rather stormy sky and the castle represented in misty, light silhouette.’7 Assuming a connection, the overall effect here is relatively simple and naturalistic compared with the complex virtuoso rendering of the sun, clouds and reflections in the England and Wales watercolour.
For a possible Lancaster Sands ‘colour beginning’, see Tate D25132 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 10). A ‘colour beginning’ comprising only sea and sky which has been linked to a variant watercolour of about 1830 showing Flint Castle (private collection)8 is Tate D35986 (Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 143). See also the introductions to the present subsection of identified subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
1
Wilton 1975, pp.72–3.
2
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.367 no.581, reproduced.
3
Ibid., p.393 no.803, reproduced.
4
Ibid., p.401 no.868, reproduced.
5
Shanes 1997, pp.97, 107.
6
See ibid., p.43 under no.15 for other Flint Castle works.
7
Shanes 2004, p.156.
8
Wilton 1979, pp.403–4 no.885, reproduced.
Technical notes:
The missing, torn bottom right corner noted by Finberg, extending to the bottom centre and about a quarter of the way up the right-hand side, was made good by 19751 and filled in with watercolour to match the surrounding area sand in that part of the composition. The ‘J Whatman | 1828’ watermark noted by C.F. Bell2 is not readily legible.
1
Wilton 1975, p.72.
2
MS note in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, II, p.1213.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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