Joseph Mallord William Turner

Warwick Castle from the Avon Bridge


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 120 × 203 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 38 a

Catalogue entry

Warwick Castle overlooks the River Avon in the county town of Warwickshire. While its beginnings are traceable to the Norman Conquest and before, its most prominent features, Caesar’s Tower and Guy’s Tower, date from the fourteenth century. Long associated with the Earls of Warwick, it has been in commercial ownership since 1978.1 Here Turner looks west to the lightly indicated river frontage of the castle from the bridge over the Avon, and continues on folio 39 recto opposite (D22048) with more of the castle and the view north-west to the pinnacled tower of St Mary’s Church in the town beyond. The view is little changed today. The section of the castle on this page is studied in more detail on the recto (D22046).
As John Ruskin and others have recognised,2 the double-page composition, cropped a little at either side, together with the detail of the castle on the recto (D22046), informed the watercolour design of about 1830 (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester),3 engraved in 1832 as Warwick Castle, Warwickshire for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04594, T04595). The overall view from further east on folio 40 recto (D22050) may also have been consulted.
There are two pencil views of the castle from Turner’s 1794 visit (Tate D00327, D00328; Turner Bequest XXI A, B), and a watercolour study from the late 1790s (Tate D00329; Turner Bequest XXI C). A finished 1794 watercolour of Warwick Castle and Bridge is, like the England and Wales view, at the Whitworth Art Gallery;4 it shows the castle from a similar angle, but from water level, dramatically framed through the arch of the Avon bridge. A watercolour of inconspicuous buildings through trees beyond water, traditionally known as ‘Warwick Castle’ (Tate T01021), does not bear any close relationship to the topography of the site.
There are further views of Warwick on folios 39 verso and 40 recto (D22049, D22050) and on 58 verso (D22084; Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 56a). For James Hamilton’s suggestion that an engraved ‘Little Liber’ subject (traditionally known as ‘Gloucester Cathedral’ and dated to the 1820s) actually represents St Mary’s Church, Warwick from Hill Wootton and postdates the 1830 tour, see the present author’s entry for its associated watercolour study (Tate D25430; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 307).

Matthew Imms
August 2013

‘History and Restoration’, Warwick Castle, accessed 24 June 2013,
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.566; see also Finberg 1909, II, p.730; Sewter 1952 p.20; Hawcroft 1966, p.27; Shanes 1979, p.156; Hartley 1984, p.48; and Nugent and Croal 1997, p.84.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.398 no.841, reproduced.
Wilton 1979, p.309 no.79, reproduced.

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