Joseph Mallord William Turner

Distant Mountains, Possibly near Harlech Castle or Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 308 x 488 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 24

Catalogue entry

Finberg dubbed this elemental colour study ‘Daybreak over the mountains’. Dating it to about 1819, Andrew Wilton speculated on a link between the view of distant mountains and Turner’s 1819 Italian tour, comparing the view of Monte Gennaro in the Naples: Rome. C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16129; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 41), with its distant peaks beyond a plain;1 however, the present sheet is watermarked 1828. Eric Shanes has observed that it ‘appears to analyse the Snowdonia background’2 developed in the watercolour Harlech Castle of about 1834–5 (private collection),3 engraved in 1836 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04606, T06120). At the same time, presumably influenced by Wilton, he reserved the possibility that it represents a ‘view near Rome’.4
There is no indication of the castle which appears on the right in the middle distance of the England and Wales watercolour, the severely faded background of which makes any colour comparison with the present work effectively impossible, although the mountains in the engraving do appear relatively dark. Given the uncertainty of the subject, a date of about 1828–35 is suggested here, covering the period between the manufacture of the sheet and the likely completion of the finished Harlech watercolour.
For other colour studies of Harlech, identified with varying degrees of certainty, see Tate D25128, D25232, D25240 and D25289 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 6, 110, 118, 167). See also the Introductions to the present subsection of tentatively identified but unrealised subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Wilton 1975, p.56.
Shanes 1997, p.27; see also pp.95, 104.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.401 no.867.
Shanes 1997, pp.98, 104.
Blank; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram above ‘CCLXIII 24’ bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII. 24’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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