Joseph Mallord William Turner

Brougham Castle, near the Junction of the Rivers Eamont and Lowther


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 161 × 228 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCVIII N

Catalogue entry

Brougham Castle is located near Penrith in Cumberland on the banks of the River Eamont. The castle ‘formed part of a defensive system of Norman castles built to prevent Scots invasion and cattle-stealing in the Borders’.1 The estate of the Earls of Cumberland, it fell into ruin at the end of the seventeenth century. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the ‘remains of this magnificent castle’, Barbara Hofland writes, formed ‘an object of great attentions to those tourists who visit the Lakes of this mountainous and romantic district’.2 In ‘every point of view, the ruins are picturesque and impressive, and the artist and antiquary alike find in them food for interesting contemplation’.3 Brougham features in William Wordsworth’s The Prelude, published posthumously in 1850. He recounts exploring the ruins with his sister, writing: ‘...That river and those mouldering tower/ Have seen us side by side, when, having clomb/ The darkstone windings of a broken stair,/ And Crept along a ridge of fractured wall,/ Not without trembling, we in safety looked/ Forth, through some Gothic window’s open space,/ And gathered with one mind in a rich reward/ From the far-stretching landscape...’4
The isolate castle is captured in late afternoon light after a summer storm, suns beams casting over it a warm gold hue which contrasts with the sombre rain-heavy clouds behind. The bright arc of a rainbow interrupts the gloom of the sky to the left, mirroring the curving diagonal trajectory of the rainclouds on the right. The rainbow is comprised of unpainted paper or may have been created by the process of ‘scraping out’: the means of producing a highlight by removing an area of watercolour to expose the paper underneath. The bare paper has been heightened with the faintest applications of violet and blue to hint at the colours of the spectrum. Turner’s facility is particularly manifest in his rendering of the mirror surface of river: fine layered strokes of pale yellow, orange, and peach diffuse into the water seamlessly to represent the reflection of Brougham castle in the water.
Shanes 1990, p.110, no.85 (colour).
Hofland 1827, p.13.
William Wordsworth, The Prelude, or Growth of a Poet’s Mind; an Autobiographical Poem, 1805, 1850, Book Sixth, Cambridge and the Alps, p.87, lines 211–18, accessed 24 February 2013.

Alice Rylance-Watson
March 2013

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