Joseph Mallord William Turner

Norham: The Castle from the West, with the River Tweed in the Foreground


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 210 × 270 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XXXIV 57

Catalogue entry

The subject is drawn with the page turned horizontally. Norham formed part of the County Palatine of Durham and it was Bishop Hugh de Puiset of Durham who built the keep of the castle in the later twelfth century, using as his architect Richard of Wolviston.1 David Hill suggests2 that the relative slightness of Turner’s drawing is a result of his having to make it soon after dawn, with the sun directly in his eyes. He made another pencil study of Norham, closer to the castle, on a separate sheet (Tate D00682; Turner Bequest XXVII U). The site was a potent inspiration for him both in the 1790s and later in his career. Two large finished watercolours based on this general view from upstream were created in the years immediately following the tour (private collection, and The Higgins Bedford);3 one of these was shown at the Royal Academy in 1798 (353) under the title Norham Castle on the Tweed, Summer’s morn. Colour studies related to these two works are Tate D02343 and D02344 (Turner Bequest L B, C).
Turner revisited the site in 1801 and made further sketches in his Helmsley sketchbook (Tate D02538D02539; Turner Bequest LIII 44a–45). These seem to have been used for the sepia drawing of Norham for the Liber Studiorum published 1816 (see Tate D08158; Turner Bequest CXVIII D), and for the watercolour of Norham in the series of Rivers of England (Tate D18148; Turner Bequest CCVIII O).4 Another view occurs in an illustration to a line from Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion, ‘Day sat on Norham’s castled steep’, one of a group of watercolours made for Walter Fawkes in the early 1820s (private collection);5 and Norham Castle – Moonrise (private collection)6 figured among the illustrations to Scott’s Prose Works that Turner produced in the early 1830s (Tate impression: T04731). An ethereal retrospective meditation on the subject is the famous late oil painting Norham Castle, Sunrise (Tate N01981),7 which again takes this drawing as its starting-point, and makes dramatic use of the dazzling effect of the early sun. A small watercolour on card showing the castle at the end of the village street is Tate D36625 (Turner Bequest CCCLXXIX 1).
Nikolaus Pevsner, Ian Richmond and others, Northumberland, The Buildings of England, revised ed., New Haven and London 2002, pp.521–2.
Hill 1996, p.88.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.324 no.225, pp.324–5 no.226.
Ibid., p.385 no.736, pl.175 (colour).
Ibid., p.424 no.1052.
Ibid., p.430 no.1099.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.301–2 no.512, pl.514 (colour).

Andrew Wilton
January 2013

Read full Catalogue entry


You might like

In the shop