Joseph Mallord William Turner

Bowes Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 187 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVI 31

Catalogue entry

Emma House, curator of the Bowes Museum, has identified four sketches of the castle on folios 30 verso–31 verso in the present sketchbook (D25821–D25822) and another in the Rokeby and Appleby sketchbook (Tate D25531; Turner Bequest CCLXIV 4a). There is also a sketch of Bowes Church of St Giles, on the inside back cover of the present sketchbook. She suggests that folio 31 verso was the first sketch that Turner made of the castle, and that he therefore approached it from the south-east. However, the evidence of the sketchbook is that the first sketch was made from the south, and that Turner then went west around the castle. This is also consistent with what appears from the order of sketches in the book to have been Turner’s route, which brought him from Appleby-in-Westmorland to the west of Bowes, and then took him north-east to Barnard Castle and south-east from there past Egglestone Abbey to Rokeby Park.
Turner’s first ever depiction of Bowes Castle has been dated 1795–7, and was presumably based on the work of another artist. He saw the tower for himself, however, in 1816 during a tour of Yorkshire when he made sketches from several angles (Tate D11207, D11211; Turner Bequest CXLV 105, CLVII 51a). In 1831 Turner may have been aware that Bowes Castle was being considered by Sir Walter Scott and his publisher Robert Cadell, as a subject for him to illustrate for Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works. It is not certain how early Bowes Castle was first considered as a possibility, but it is only recorded as being suggested by Cadell on 1 August and was initially rejected by Scott. On 6 August, however, two days after Turner’s arrival at Abbotsford, Bowes was back on the list where it remained.1
The present sketch formed the basis of Turner’s watercolour design for his vignette illustration to volume 9 of the Poetical Works: Bowes Tower circa 1832 (watercolour, Bowes Museum).2 The view is from the south-east across the River Greta and includes the mill in the foreground with Mill Force waterfall to its left. The castle sits a few hundred metres back from the opposite bank with the Church of St Giles on its right, and the slightest indication of some of the houses of the village at the right continues slightly on folio 30 verso (D25820). The inscription, ‘wood’, at the bottom left indicates the woods around Gilmonby.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

Gerald Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, pp.242–3.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.429 no.1087.

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