Joseph Mallord William Turner

Kenilworth Castle from the South-West


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 120 × 203 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 29

Catalogue entry

The town of Kenilworth, Warwickshire, with the extensive castle of the same name on its west side, lies five miles north of Warwick (see under folio 38 verso; D22047) and about the same distance south of Coventry (see under folio 40 verso; D22051). The castle, now in the care of English Heritage, originated in 1120, with the outer walls added by King John in the early 1200s, when the low-lying surrounding fields were flooded as a vast moat. John of Gaunt built the Great Hall, and Elizabeth I’s favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, developed the site as a Renaissance ‘prodigy house’ for the Queen’s visits (notably in 1575), adding the turreted gatehouse and Leicester’s Building. Dudley’s father, the Duke of Northumberland, had made comparable changes at Dudley Castle; see under folio 23 recto (D22016). Kenilworth’s fortifications were dismantled in 1650 after the Civil War, but by the time of Turner’s visit the imposing ruin was well known for its role in Sir Walter Scott’s 1821 novel Kenilworth, centred on Elizabeth and Leicester (see below).1 For Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle, another Scott setting, see under folio 21 verso (D22012).
In the upper drawing here, the castle is seen from the south-west, with the Strong Tower and Saintlowe Tower flanking the Great Hall at the centre and the Great Tower rising beyond. Gaunt’s Tower and Leicester’s Building, on the south-eastern corner of the complex, are to the right. Below is a rudimentary outline version showing a slightly wider view including Mortimer’s Tower on the curtain wall.
Turner’s subsequent watercolour of about 1830 (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco),2 an evening scene with the full moon rising, was engraved as Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire in 1832 for his Picturesque Views in England and Wales (see the introduction to the 1830 Midlands tour for a concordance of relevant subjects). Most of the sketches between folios 27 recto (D22024) and 37 verso (D22045) show Kenilworth. Eric Shanes has described the watercolour as a ‘synthesis’ of sketches between folios 28 verso opposite (D22027) and 37 verso;3 the present view is the closest in terms of the profile and juxtaposition of the various elements of the castle.

Matthew Imms
August 2013

See [Anna Keay], ‘History of Kenilworth Castle’, English Heritage, accessed 20 June 2013,; for Turner and Scott see Gerald Finley, ‘Scott, Sir Walter (1771–1832)’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.135.
Wilton 1979, p.398 no.842, reproduced; Rawlinson I 1908, pp.xcv, 148–9 no.266.
Shanes 1979, p.156
See ‘Sales’, Turner Studies, vol.1, no.2, Winter 1981, p.[55].
Note in Tate catalogue files.
Wilton 1979, p.436 no.1148.

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