Joseph Mallord William Turner

East Cowes Castle. The Battlements, with Cowes and the River Medina to the West at Sunset


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk, pen and ink and graphite on paper
Support: 143 x 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLX 27

Catalogue entry

The most unusual of Turner’s East Cowes Castle views are perhaps three from the castellated roof, looking west over the River Medina to Cowes (see also Tate D24861 and D24862; CCLX 25, 26). They are complemented by a pencil sketch in the contemporary Isle of Wight sketchbook (Tate D20757; Turner Bequest CCXXVII 16a). Quite which part of the picturesquely turreted roofscape Turner used for his viewpoint is now uncertain, as there were various ways up,1 but he appears to have been at somewhere near the centre of the main block, with the vertical features possibly being the small turrets flanking the bay window on the north-west front above the dining room (as shown for example in D20842; CCXXVII a 39). In this instance the sun is setting and illuminating the clouds; compare D24862.
Like several others in the present subsection, this drawing was categorised in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory in one of the sections of works on blue paper ‘mostly connected with “French Rivers”’.2 It is among dozens of blue paper studies made in and around East Cowes Castle, presumably during the same visit. For more on the various aspects of the house (demolished in about 1950), and its lost grounds as depicted by Turner, see the Introduction to this subsection.
There is an unrelated view on the verso (D40085).
See ‘Ground-floor plan of East Cowes Castle’ in Michael Mansbridge, John Nash: A Complete Catalogue, Oxford 1991, p.86.
See Finberg 1909, II, pp.806–13, CCLX, ‘Pencil and ink on blue paper: mostly connected with “French Rivers” series’, c.1830; but see Warrell 1989, p.148 and Warrell 1999, pp.30, 253 note 84.
Technical notes:
The combination of the dark ink outline of the foreground architecture with soft chalk and pencil to evoke the twilit distance is unusual in this East Cowes Castle sequence, where ink is otherwise used throughout the landscape. There is fading to the centre from prolonged exposure when the sheet was on display.

Matthew Imms
November 2015

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