Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lake Llanberis and Dolbadarn Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 553 × 761 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXX X

Display caption

Dolbadern Castle was one of Turner's favourite Welsh motifs. The distinctive round keep of the Norman castle stands on a rocky promontory at the edge of
Lake Llanberis.


The visual impact of Dolbadern was not the only fascination for Turner. He was also interested in the broader historical associations of the castle. It was thought to be the place where a Welsh prince
was imprisoned by his own brother for over twenty years. The perfect stillness
of the lake and sky lend an ethereal quality to this study.


Gallery label, September 2002

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Catalogue entry

Although not a finished work, this subject was brought to a point nearing completion after Turner had explored the motif in a series of monochrome studies of a view that evidently fascinated him. Dolbadarn Castle was the focus of many works in watercolour and oil executed about 1800, including his Diploma submission to the Royal Academy on election as Academician in 1802, the painting of the castle that he had shown in the 1800 exhibition there (Royal Academy of Arts, London).1
The preparatory studies are Tate D04180, D04181 and D04182 (Turner Bequest LXX c, d, e); a further, more detailed study is Tate D04176 (Turner Bequest LXX Y). The colour monochrome studies make use of an emphatic violet or purple; here the palette, still almost monochrome, is reduced to a cool and uniform grey, creating an atmosphere of magical calm. Indicated only in pencil, a boat with two people on board in the right foreground scarcely disturbs the surface of the still lake.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.9–10 no.12, pl.7 (colour).
Blank; stamped in brown ink with Turner Bequest monogram.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

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