Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tamworth Castle


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 307 × 487 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 146

Catalogue entry

This colour study has been identified by Lindsay Stainton1 as relating to the watercolour Tamworth Castle, Staffordshire of about 1830 (private collection), 2 engraved in 1832 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impression: T04598). The composition is taken from a pencil drawing in the 1830 Kenilworth sketchbook (Tate D22072; Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 51c), showing the castle and St Editha’s Church from the south, across the confluence of the Rivers Tame and Anker, with the Lady Bridge on the left.
Shanes described the present study as among those ‘created simply to make a scene leap imaginatively and colourfully from a sketchbook page’.3 It is more diffuse and atmospheric that Tate D25306 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 184), a colour study for the same composition in which the topography can be related more precisely to the finished design. Tate D25183 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 61) is a ‘colour beginning’ showing Tamworth in the distance to the north along the Tame.
Ian Warrell has noted the Tamworth identification, but suggests that ‘the light penetrating through the mass of the building is meant to represent the space between the columns’4 of the circular Temple of Vesta at Tivoli (a recurrent subject of Turner’s). However, the light referred to may correspond with the positions of the windows in the finished Tamworth design, while the block to the right here corresponds with the church tower beyond the castle. Finberg5 suggested Tate D25194 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 72) as a Tamworth study, but it may represent Whitby.
See also the introductions to the present subsection of identified subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Stainton 1983, p.82; Shanes 1997, pp.27, 70, 96, 105.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.399 no.844, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, p.27.
Warrell 2002, p.197.
Finberg 1909, II, p.819.
Blank, save for inscriptions at bottom right: in pencil ‘AB 150 P’; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram above ‘CCLXIII – 146’; and in pencil ‘CCLXIII | 146’.
The ‘AB’ number corresponds with the endorsement on one of the parcels of works sorted by John Ruskin during his survey of the Turner Bequest, in this case classified by him as ‘Colour dashes on white. Valueless’.1

Matthew Imms
March 2013

Transcribed ibid., II, p.814.

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