Joseph Mallord William Turner

Prudhoe Castle from the Tyne Valley

1817

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 116 x 185 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D12417
Turner Bequest CLVII 78

Catalogue entry

Dating from the early twelfth century, Prudhoe Castle passed from the d’Umfraville barons of Prudhoe to the powerful Percy family (whose other Northumberland properties included Alnwick Castle) in 1398; it is now an English Heritage property. After falling into ruin it was partly restored in about 1818, not long after Turner’s visit, when a house for the castle steward was built within the walls.1
The castle appears as in perfunctory outline on the skyline towards the right as the main focus of a two-page view, which continues to the right on folio 77 verso opposite (D12416) with the wooded north bank of the River Tyne and a glimpse of the hills beyond Prudhoe. Turner’s viewpoint is the north side of the river along the Wylam to Ovingham road near Howdene Bridge, looking south-west up the Tyne to the castle, past Hagg Bank on the left and the small island in the river on the right. The far side of the valley below the castle is now industrialised and flanked by the Newcastle to Carlisle railway, but the foreground remains rural.
The double-page sketch was the main source for the watercolour Prudhoe Castle, Northumberland of about 1825 (British Museum, London),2 engraved in 1828 for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales. As various commentators have noted, the hills are further exaggerated and simplified in the watercolour as the castle merges with its setting in a blue silhouette as if it were one of the castles on the Rhine crags which he had observed on his journey along that river in 1817, just before his visit to Durham and Northumberland (see the introduction to the tour); he also introduced an extensive foreground with seated figures and a brilliant, low, Claude Lorrain-style afternoon sun above the ruin.3
There are other views of the castle from across the Tyne on folios 78 verso–79 recto, 79 verso–80 recto and 80 verso–81 recto (D12418–D12423), and from close up on folios 89 verso, 90 verso, 91 verso, 92 verso and 93 verso (D12440, D12442, D12444, D12446, D12448).

Matthew Imms
February 2010

1
‘Prudhoe Castle’, English Heritage, accessed 10 February 2010, http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.18764; [Sarah Yates (ed.)], Heritage Unlocked: Guide to Free [English Heritage] Sites in Yorkshire & the North East, London 2004, p.97.
2
Wilton 1979, reproduced p.175 (colour), p.393 no.798.
3
See Wilton 1975, p.74, Shanes 1979 pp.26–7, Shanes 1990, pp.73, 284 note 120, Sloan 1998, p.92.

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