Joseph Mallord William Turner

Caernarvon Castle with Shipping: Moonlight


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 140 × 216 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XLIII 42 a

Catalogue entry

Made with the page turned horizontally, this is one of a sequence of studies in blue wash in this book; see also folios 42 verso, 44 verso and 45 verso (D01860, D01864, D01866; Turner Bequest XLIII 41a, 43a, 44a). They all relate to the large finished watercolour, Caernarvon Castle, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1799 (private collection).1 That shows the castle in a warm sunset glow, but it is clear from this and some others of the group that Turner was also contemplating a moonlight subject. He had already shown two moonlights in oils at the Academy: Fishermen at Sea (Tate T01585)2 in 1796 and Moonlight, a Study at Millbank (Tate N00459)3 in 1797.
The clutter of masts against the silhouette of the castle is typical of Turner’s interests about this time; a similar tangle occurs in Harlech Castle, from Twgwyn Ferry, Summer’s Evening Twilight, also of 1799 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven).4 Another example of the superimposition of ship’s tackle on the mass of a building is D01866.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.328 no.254, pl.47 (colour).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.1–2 no.1, pl.1 (colour).
Ibid., p.2 no.2, pl.2 (colour).
Ibid., pp.6–7 no.9, pl.8 (colour).

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