Joseph Mallord William Turner

Llanstephan Castle by Moonlight, with a Kiln in the Foreground


In Tate Britain

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 213 × 281 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XXVIII D

Display caption

Turner’s tours of Britain in the 1790s led him to explore the pictorial potential of a wide variety of themes. This watercolour was based on sketches Turner made on his tour of South Wales in 1795. Modern industry, in the form of a lime kiln in the foreground, is set against ancient heritage, represented in the silhouetted ruins of Llanstephan Castle. This was a device Turner used in many of his landscape views, presenting a vision of Britain as a place at once historic and modern.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

This is based on the pencil drawing in the South Wales sketchbook (Tate D00571; Turner Bequest XXVI 18). The contrast of medieval ruins with modern industry prefigures various later works, notably the view of Dudley, Worcestershire executed in about 1832 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales series (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight).1 There is a more direct connection, as well, with the subject of Turner’s first exhibited oil painting, Fishermen at Sea, which appeared at the Royal Academy in 1796 (305) (Tate T01585).2 It is a night scene, with both moonlight and firelight.
Turner drew Llanstephan again, though from farther away up the estuary, on his tour of 1798; see the Hereford Court sketchbook (Tate D01277, D01278; Turner Bequest XXXVIII 26, 27).
The verso is D40057.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.400 no.858, pl.195.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.1–2 no.1, pl.1 (colour).
Technical notes:
The sheet is stained. Having been severely damaged by a spill of varnish, it had evidently been abandoned. It remained effectively ignored in the Turner Bequest until conservation including the removal of the varnish rendered it fit for display for the first time in the exhibition Young Turner of 1988.

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

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