J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner A Castle on the Coast, Possibly Pendennis near Falmouth or Laugharne c.1825-30

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
A Castle on the Coast, Possibly Pendennis near Falmouth or Laugharne c.1825–30
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 196
Watercolour on white wove paper, 338 x 439 mm
Inscribed in red ink ‘196’ bottom right
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 196’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Andrew Wilton suggested this as perhaps a Devon or Cornwall view, connected with the Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England series1 (see the Introduction to the 1811 tour of the West Country in the present catalogue).
Eric Shanes has called it ‘almost certainly ... a variant view’ from the watercolour Laugharne Castle of about 1831 (Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio),2 engraved in 1833 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales as Langharne [sic], or Talacharne Castle, Caermarthenshire (Tate impressions: T06103, T06104).3 That composition is based on a pencil sketch of the castle above the Taf Estuary in the 1795 South Wales sketchbook (Tate D00572; Turner Bequest XXVI 19); the only other sketch there (Tate D00574; Turner Bequest XXVI 21) is almost entirely taken up with the castle, and appears unrelated to the present study. A more likely Laugharne colour study, relatable to the finished watercolour, is Tate D25297 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 175).
The present study, with waves crashing against what appears to be a beach and rocks or cliffs, with a more or less level horizon suggesting the open sea to the left beyond the perfunctory silhouette of a castle-like building on a headland, evokes a coastal setting. When the work was exhibited in 2002–3 it was suggested that Falmouth, Cornwall might be the subject;4 if so, the view would be from the St Mawes side of Carrick Roads, looking west.
There are drawings in and around Falmouth scattered through the 1811 Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook (Tate D08375, D08538, D08566, D08574, D08576, D08579, D08641, D08760, D08761; CXXIII 7a, 89a, 104, 108a, 109a, 111, 144a, 217a, 218), and in the contemporary Ivy Bridge to Penzance sketchbook (Tate D08901, D08905, D08906, D08908; Turner Bequest CXXV 24a, 27, 27a, 29). An overall view of the town, looking south-east towards Pendennis Castle on the peninsula rising beyond is shown in the watercolour Falmouth Harbour of about 1812–14 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight),5 engraved in 1816 for the Southern Coast. The castle alone is seen from the west in the watercolour Pendennis Castle, Cornwall, Scene after a Wreck of about 1816 (private collection),6 engraved in 1817 for the same series.
The watercolour of Falmouth of about 1825 (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts),7 engraved in 1828 for The Ports of England (but not published until 1856 in The Harbours of England), is dominated by St Mawes Castle in the foreground, but to the left in the background Pendennis Castle is shown to the west on its headland towards the sea. The castle also appears in the distance from the east in the watercolour St Mawes, Cornwall of about 1823 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),8 engraved in 1824 for the Southern Coast, and in a second, untraced watercolour with the same title, of about 1828,9 engraved in 1830 for England and Wales; Turner had initially painted a version in oils, St Mawes in the Pilchard Season, which he exhibited at his gallery in 1812 (Tate N00484).10 Related drawings, all featuring Pendennis Castle in the background, are in the Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook (Tate D08620, D08643; Turner Bequest CXXIII 133, 145a) and the Ivy Bridge to Penzance sketchbook (Tate D08909; Turner Bequest CXXV 30).
For all this, it is possible that the present colour study’s slight resemblance to these views of Pendennis Castle from the west may be fortuitous. Nevertheless, the date suggested here, c.1825–31, reflects both Warrell’s dating of it as a possible England and Wales Falmouth study and Shanes’s in relation to Laugharne.
See also the Introductions to the present subsection of tentatively identified but unrealised subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Wilton 1975, p.50.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.399 no.848, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, pp.27, 96, 105.
Warrell and others 2002, pp.86–7; Warrell and others 2003, p.95.
Wilton 1979, pp.351–2 no.455, reproduced.
Ibid., p.352 no.458, reproduced.
Ibid., p.388 no.762, reproduced.
Ibid., p.354 no.473, reproduced.
Ibid., p.396 no.823.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.87 no.123, pl.129.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘AB 94 P | O’, ‘CCLXIII | 196’ and ‘D.25318’ bottom right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram above ‘CCLXIII – 196’ bottom right. The verso is affected by prominent brown staining, possibly varnish, particularly on the right; this has bled through a little to the recto, although it is not very prominent among the dark tones at the corresponding left-hand side of the composition.
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 effects. Finer’.1

Matthew Imms
March 2013

Transcribed in Finberg 1909, II, p.814.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘A Castle on the Coast, Possibly Pendennis near Falmouth or Laugharne c.1825–30 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-a-castle-on-the-coast-possibly-pendennis-near-falmouth-or-r1144353, accessed 25 May 2024.