Joseph Mallord William Turner

Harlech Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 306 × 487 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 110

Catalogue entry

Both A.J. Finberg and C.F. Bell suggested that this colour study shows Harlech Castle,1 overlooking Tremadog Bay in Gwynedd, North Wales. Eric Shanes has compared it with the watercolour Harlech Castle of about 1834–5 (private collection),2 engraved in 1836 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04606, T06120).3 The original source of the design is probably a partly coloured pencil view to the north in the 1798 Hereford Court sketchbook (Tate D01259; Turner Bequest XXXVIII 42), one of several made on that occasion. There is an earlier ‘Monro School’-style wash drawing of a similar aspect (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin).
In this ‘colour beginning’, as part of ‘a search for the most expressive and visually dynamic viewpoint’,4 the castle is shown nearer and higher than in the final composition. Shanes has also suggested Tate D25128, D25240 and D25289 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 6, 118, 167) as related studies; the last of these is the most comparable in colour and form to the present work. Tate D25146 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 24), a study of distant mountains, is possibly another study for the subject.
See also 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.
MS notes in copies of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, II, p.822.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.401 no.867.
Shanes 1997, pp.96, 98, 105.
Shanes 1997, p.18.
Blank, save for inscriptions at bottom right: inscribed in pencil ‘[?AB 93 P]’; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram above ‘CCLXIII – 110’; and inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII 110’ and ‘D25232’.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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