Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Castle on a Headland, Possibly Conway Castle

c.1820–40

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 255 × 273 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D35992
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 148

Catalogue entry

Since 1995,1 this evocative twilight view has been identified as perhaps showing Conway (Conwy) Castle, overlooking the Menai Straits in North Wales. Compare the similar profile of a distant castle across water in strong light against grey cloud (Tate D25176; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 54), a ‘colour beginning’ perhaps connected with the Picturesque Views of England and Wales, under which Turner’s 1798 visit and subsequent watercolours are discussed. Andrew Wilton has mentioned the present work in connection with D25276, and also Tate D35993 (Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 149), which seems to represent a smaller structure on a headland at dusk,2 as well as suggesting that the ‘evidently Welsh’ subject here might also be Harlech (see under Tate D25232; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 110) or Criccieth (see under Tate D25174; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 52).3
Wilton observes that the ‘lower bands of blue, red and yellow in this one may in fact form a separate study of sunset sky and sea, intended to be read the other way up’, two or more ‘colour beginnings’ initially developed on one sheet being not being uncommon; while the ‘wiping-out technique in the castle itself suggests an early date, ... Turner evidently continued to employ this device, which is characteristic of his experimental watercolours of about 1799, until late in his career.’4 Wilton has proposed ‘some stylistic affinities’5 with Turner’s exploration of chiaroscuro effects in the ‘Little Liber’ (see the ‘Little Liber c.1823–6’ section of the present catalogue).
Given the uncertainties of subject and dating, a range covering the 1820s and 1830s has been applied here.
1
See Sketching the Sky, exhibition catalogue 1995, p.[7].
2
See Wilton 1974, p.96.
3
Ibid.
4
Ibid.
5
Ibid.
Verso:
Blank

Matthew Imms
August 2016

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