Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lulworth Castle, Dorsetshire

c.1820

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 165 × 244 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D36118
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 271

Catalogue entry

This relatively developed ‘colour beginning’ is, as Eric Shanes recognised,1 a variant on the finished watercolour of about 1820, Lulworth Castle, Dorsetshire (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven), engraved in 1821 for the Southern Coast series (Tate impressions: T04400–T04401, T05351–T05359, T05984).2 Turner had visited the castle on his West Country tour of 1811, and made a pencil drawing of the scene in the Corfe to Dartmouth sketchbook (Tate D08828; Turner Bequest CXXIV 19), under which the subject is discussed in detail.
Here and in the finished composition he introduced a stand of trees on the left. While in the current work there is the pale form of a single figure, perhaps in an agricultural smock,3 the final version shows a similarly dressed figure reclining with a fishing rod while cows stand in a shaded stream, and a passing sailor stands conversing and pointing out of the picture. While the introduction or alteration of figures is not unusual in Turner’s progression from his usually unpopulated pencil sketches to a completed statement, it is more striking that the westward prospect is here lit by morning light from behind the viewer, illuminating the façades of the castle and nearby church, whereas ultimately the sun would be shown within the picture space, dipping towards the horizon in the right and silhouetting the battlements. As Shanes remarks, there seems no particular reason for two approaches, other than Turner’s perhaps ‘being unsure as to which he preferred, and so he tried both.’4 See the entry for Tate D25392 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 269) for a similar change.
1
See Shanes 1997, pp.11, 19, 28, 54, 95, 102.
2
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.353 no.467, reproduced.
3
See Shanes 1997, p.54.
4
Ibid.; see also pp.11, 19.
Technical notes:
There is some light pencil work defining the castle, while the pale figure may have initially been reserved, or subsequently washed out.
Verso:
Effectively blank, but with washed bands of yellows and blues, similar to the colours used on the recto. Inscribed in pencil ‘17’ at centre; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCLXIV – 271’ towards bottom left.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

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