Joseph Mallord William Turner

Landscape Composition with a Ruined Castle on a Cliff


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 214 × 273 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XXIII Q

Display caption

This is an exercise in a generalised and idealised kind of landscape, rather than a representation of a particular place. This sort of rugged coastal scene had been a specialism of Phillip James de Loutherbourg, a successful landscape painter of the older generation. A work by him can be seen in room C3.

Although this is an invented, rather than actual, location Turner uses the same components – jagged rocks, crashing waves, wind-tossed boat – in paintings of particular places in Britain.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Probably an imaginary scene, the castle perhaps based on Llanstephan (Carmarthen) though there is no evidence that Turner travelled so far west in either 1792 or 1793. The invented subject, together with the signature on the verso (D40052), raises the possibility that this was a composition lent to a pupil for copying; compare Tate D00848 (XXXI F). If so, dating as it must from around 1792–3, this is the earliest recorded work of the type. For other drawings in this style, heavily influenced by P.J. de Loutherbourg (1740–1812), see Tate D00392 and D00396 (Turner Bequest XXIII R, V).

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

Read full Catalogue entry


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