Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 345 × 485 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 92

Catalogue entry

Andrew Wilton suggested this ‘blur of orange and white and yellow and crimson’1 relates to Turner’s painting Cockermouth Castle, exhibited in 1810 (Tate T03879; on display at Petworth House, Sussex),2 noting drawings in the 1809 Petworth and Cockermouth sketchbooks (Tate D07525–D07536, D07555–D07561; Turner Bequest CIX 13–24, CX 16–21);3 Eric Shanes suggested more specifically a ‘synthesis’ of three Petworth sketchbook studies (Tate D07530, D07533, D07536; Turner Bequest CIX 18, 21, 24),4 showing the castle on the skyline with the River Derwent among trees below.
Ian Warrell, while noting Cockermouth and Caernarfon Castle as previous identifications, plausibly suggests Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle as the subject.5 The untraced watercolour Ashby-de-la-Zouch, of about 1830,6 was engraved in 1832 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04593, T05090). Turner visited the ruins of the Leicestershire castle on his Midlands tour of 1830, making various pencil drawings round the site in the Kenilworth sketchbook, the closest to the England and Wales design being Tate D22060 (Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 45a). In the finished composition, the low-lying foreground is populated by sheep and cows, possibly prefigured here by the loose red marks towards the bottom left, whilst this study’s shaft of light down the slope between the trees on the right corresponds to a similar sunrise effect in the untraced watercolour.
In 2008 the German-based Japanese painter and photographer Hiroyuki Masuyama (born 1968) produced an LED lightbox image based on the present work as one of a series reinterpreting Turner’s landscapes, combining the original composition with digitally layered photographic landscape and architectural elements.7 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.
Robinson 1989, p.61.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.77 no. 108, pl.115 (colour).
Wilton 1975, p.46, as c.1810; see also Wilton 1987, p.251 and 2006, p.121, retaining the identification but redating the sheet to.c.1830.
Shanes 1997, p.96.
Warrell 1993, pp.303–4; Warrell 1994, p.196.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.398 no.840.
Madesani 2008, reproduced in colour p.41, as ‘Cockermouth Castel [sic], 1830’, 2008.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower notes that there are various sizes and types of ‘1794 | J Whatman’ paper in the Turner Bequest, but observes that Turner’s choice (if intentional) of this particular sheet decades after its manufacture ‘can only be guessed at’.1 Andrew Wilton notes the ‘interesting combination of watercolour and chalk’,2 the castle being indicated in red outline rather than the pencil usual for Turner at this date.
Bower p.45; see also table, p.46.
Wilton 1975, p.11.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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