Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Criccieth Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 344 × 481 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 39

Catalogue entry

This is one of four colour studies linked by Eric Shanes with varying degrees of certainty to the watercolour of about 1836 showing the castle at Criccieth, near Porthmadog, Gwynedd, on its headland looking overlooking Tremadog Bay to the south (British Museum, London);1 it was engraved as Crickieth [sic] Castle, North Wales in 1837 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04610, T06126).2 The others are Tate D25170, D25174 and D25293 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 48, 52, 171). Of three pencil sketches of Criccieth in the 1798 North Wales sketchbook (Tate D01378–D01380; Turner Bequest XXXIX 23, 24, 25), D01379 is closest to the finished watercolour, though with considerable differences.
If this is a preliminary idea for a Criccieth view, it is a major variation: the developed design shows the castle and its headland on the skyline in the left-hand half of the composition, bright against a stormy sky, whereas here there is the pale form of what appears to be a cliff of steep hillside towards the far right. Despite Shanes’s suggestion, it has continued to be exhibited with titles derived from Finberg’s ‘Breakers on coast: stormy effect’. Shanes also compared the present work3 to the oil painting Life-Boat and Manby Apparatus Going Off to a Stranded Vessel Making Signal (Blue Lights) of Distress, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1831 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London),4 with its billowing dark clouds to the left and clearer sky to the right over the level horizon of sea and beach.
See also Tate D25176 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 54), which Finberg thought possibly showed Criccieth, but which may be of Conway Castle, 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.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.402 no.876, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, pp.94, 95, 104.
Ibid., pp.30, 100, 104.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.189 no.336, pl.338 (colour).
Technical notes:
Shanes describes the present paper as the ‘same’ as that of another likely England and Wales ‘colour beginning’ (Tate D25187; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 65).1
Shanes 1997, pp.94, 101.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘13’ centre right, upside down; inscribed in pencil ‘AB 92 P | O’, ‘CCLXIII.39’ and ‘D25161’ bottom right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram above ‘CCLXIII – 39’ bottom left.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

Transcribed in Finberg 1909, II, p.814.

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