Joseph Mallord William Turner

Okehampton Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 90 × 152 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXXII 43

Catalogue entry

Okehampton Castle, seen here to the north-west from the West Okement Valley, was built soon after the Norman Conquest and developed further in the fourteenth century,1 and comprises a keep on a mound or motte with a complex of other stone buildings on a bailey to the north-east; the ruins appear much as they did in Turner’s time. The castle stands on the edge of Dartmoor beside the River West Okement, on the outskirts of the town of Okehampton, which is situated just downstream to the north. Studies of the castle continue as far as folio 50 recto (D09533), followed by views in and around the town up to folio 57 recto (D09540); folio 58 recto (D09541) may show a nearby view. There are also numerous views in the Devonshire Rivers, No. 3, and Wharfedale sketchbook (see under Tate D09814; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 22), probably used on the same occasion.
Turner made two watercolours of the castle. The first, of about 1824 (Tate D18138; Turner Bequest CCVIII E),2 was engraved in 1825 as Okehampton Castle, on the River Okement (Tate impressions: T04805–T04807) for the Rivers of England series (see the concordance in the Introduction to the tour); it is based directly on one of the Devonshire Rivers, No. 3, and Wharfedale sketches (Tate D09872; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 71). The second, of about 1826 (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne),3 was engraved in 1828 as Okehampton, Devonshire (Tate impressions: T04532, T04533, T06080) for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales. The closest comparable drawing again appears to be one from Devonshire Rivers, No. 3, and Wharfedale (Tate D09816; Turner Bequest CXXXIV 24).
See [Katy Carter (ed.)], Heritage Unlocked: Guide to Free [English Heritage] Sites in Devon, Dorset and Somerset, London 2004, p.89.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.385 no.738, reproduced, under which sketches ‘CXXXII, 43–50’ and a number from Devonshire Rivers, No. 3, and Wharfedale are mentioned without suggesting a specific source.
Ibid., p.393 no.802, reproduced.

Matthew Imms
June 2014

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