Joseph Mallord William Turner

Norham Castle on the Tweed


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 192 × 274 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXVIII D

Catalogue entry

Etching and mezzotint by J.M.W. Turner and Charles Turner, ‘Norham Castle on The Tweed.’, published J.M.W. Turner, 1 January 1816
Norham lies on the Tweed in Northumberland, six miles inland from Berwick-upon-Tweed; at this point, the river marks the border between England and (to the left of the present composition) Scotland. The castle dates from the late twelfth century. Three other Liber Studiorum designs were based on drawings from the same tour: Holy Island Cathedral, Dunstanborough Castle and The Crypt of Kirkstall Abbey (see Tate D08115, D08118, D08142; Turner Bequest CXVI N, Q, CXVII O).
The Liber design was ultimately derived from a pencil study in the North of England sketchbook (Tate D00966; Turner Bequest XXXIV 57), which had been developed through two pencil and watercolour studies (Tate D02343, D02344; Turner Bequest L B, C) towards two similar finished watercolours, Norham Castle on the Tweed, Summer’s Morn, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1798 (private collection)1 and Norham Castle, Sunrise, of about the same date (Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford).2
For the Liber – as compared with the four watercolour versions – Turner considerably rearranged and tightened the composition, excluding about a sixth of the landscape at each side, halving the height of the space allowed for the river in the foreground, reducing the gap between the small building on the left and the castle keep, enlarging the cows drinking in the foreground, and generally giving the scene a more intimate, homely air (a similar, though rather more conspicuous, focusing process can be seen in the case of Ships in a Breeze: see Tate D08114; Turner Bequest CXVI M). Although it has been suggested that the ‘Pastoral’ categorisation of the design is inappropriate,3 it was perhaps this subtle domestication in mood (described by Ruskin as ‘the contrast between the pure rustic life of our own day, and the pride and terror of the past’4) that caused the composition to be so labelled, rather than as ‘EP’ (i.e. probably ‘Elevated Pastoral’; see general Liber introduction). The superficially similar River Wye, in the latter category (see Tate D08152; Turner Bequest CXVII X), serves as both a comparison and a contrast.
Wilton 1979, p.324 no.225.
Ibid., pp.324–5 no.226.
Martin Butlin, Andrew Wilton and John Gage, Turner 1775–1851, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1974, p.173.
Cook and Wedderburn XIII 1904, p.121.
Forrester 1996, p.161 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.116–25; 1906, pp.137–47; Finberg 1924, pp.225–44.
Hill 1997, p.88(–[93]); see also ‘Retrospect: Norham Castle 1798–1840’, in Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, pp.172–4.
Wilton 1979, p.424 no.1052.
Ibid., p.430 no.1099.
Ibid., p.385 no.736, reproduced p.161 pl.175 (colour).
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.301–2 no.512, pl.514 (colour).
Rawlinson 1878, p.197; 1906, p.232; Finberg 1924, p.228.
Forrester 1996, p.118 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8); Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.41 note 1.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
Finberg 1924, p.228; Forrester 1996, p.118.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

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