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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Berry Pomeroy Castle ('Raglan Castle') c.1812-15

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Berry Pomeroy Castle (‘Raglan Castle’) circa 1812–15
Vaughan Bequest CXVIII E
Watercolour on white wove lightweight writing paper, 205 x 290 mm
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Henry Vaughan by 1872 when lent to the Burlington Fine Arts Club exhibition
Etching and mezzotint by Henry Dawe (attributed) and Turner, untitled, published Turner, 1 January 1816
The untitled Liber Studiorum plate based on the present drawing was thought by early scholars to show the ruined Raglan Castle, between Abergavenny and Monmouth, South Wales; no Turner Bequest sketches of it are currently identified, but a drawing in the 1798 Dynevor Castle sketchbook (Tate D01580, D01581; Turner Bequest XL 69 a–70) records a skyline close to that in a nineteenth-century sketch inscribed ‘Ragland Castle’, by J. Martin of Canterbury (Tate, T08678). The crucial juxtaposition comprises the mullioned windows Turner recorded to the right of one of the towers, as in the present design; however, the two views have little else in common. In his early biography of Turner, Walter Thornbury had noted the published plate as ‘River with Woods. Goodrich.’1 Goodrich Castle is in Herefordshire, a few miles to the north-east of Raglan, and Turner had drawn it in the South Wales sketchbook (Tate D00610; Turner Bequest XXVI 56), but there is no obvious connection with the Liber design.
By 1872 an association with Berry Pomeroy was proposed,2 and in 1878 Rawlinson noted: ‘Neither the castle nor the surroundings are like Raglan. It has, however, marked resemblance to Berry Pomeroy Castle ... The moat is now filled up, but the miller hard by remembers when there was just such a moat as is drawn here.’3 In the Turner Bequest Inventory4 and his later Liber catalogue,5 Finberg was confident that the identification was confirmed by the place-name’s presence in Turner’s own lists (see below).
Berry Pomeroy Castle lies between Totnes and Paignton in south Devon; the gatehouse, with its massive flanking towers, dates from the late fifteenth century. A ruined range with mullioned windows lies to its right as viewed from outside the walls, though there is a gap, not evident in the Liber design. Indeed, after consultation with an archaeologist at Berry Pomeroy, Gillian Forrester concluded that the present title is ‘probably incorrect.’6 Turner first visited Devon in 1811. He had long been aware of Berry Pomeroy, including it in notes on West Country subjects on three occasions: in the Dynevor Castle sketchbook (Tate D41434; Turner Bequest XL, flyleaf), the Dolbadarn sketchbook (Tate D02174; Turner Bequest XLVI 119) and the Vale of Heathfield sketchbook (Tate D40864; Turner Bequest CXXXVII, inside front cover). There is a sequence of studies of the castle from the woods below in the Devonshire Coast, No.1 sketchbook (Tate D08628–D08630, D08636–D08638; Turner Bequest CXXIII 138, 138a, 139, 142, 142a, 143), which could have informed the design. Robert Upstone has noted a perhaps fortuitous similarity in setting and mood in an earlier watercolour study (Tate D08268; Turner Bequest CXXI L).7
In Modern Painters, Ruskin saw the composition as one of Turner’s records of the folly of ‘human pride’: ‘... last and sweetest, Raglan, in utter solitude, amidst the wild wood of its own pleasance; the towers rounded with ivy, and the forest roots choked with undergrowth, and the brook languid amidst lilies and sedges. Legends of gray [sic] knights and enchanted ladies keeping the woodman’s children away at the sunset.’8 In the foreground of the published plate, added by Turner himself only at the mezzotint stage, a water bird skims the water and leaves a sparkling wake below the bridge, impinging on the tranquillity of the scene; Stopford Brooke suggested this served to emphasise the castle’s isolation, since ‘that sound always makes a silence deeper and a solitude more wild.’9
The published plate was untitled; the composition is apparently recorded, as ‘Berry Pomeroy’, in a list of published and unpublished ‘EP’ subjects in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12162; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 26a).10 The Liber Studiorum etching and mezzotint engraving, with the etched outline usually attributed to Henry Dawe, and engraved by Turner – although Finberg suggested at one stage that he had a hand in the etching too, due to ‘slight but successful differences’11 from the drawing – bears the publication date 1 January 1816 and was issued to subscribers in part 12 (Rawlinson/Finberg nos.57–61;12 see also Tate D08158, D08160–D08162; Turner Bequest CXVIII D, F, H, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII G). Tate holds a photographic facsimile of the preliminary outline etching (Tate A01121) and an impression of the published engraving (A01122). It is one of eleven published Liber Studiorum subjects in Turner’s ‘EP’ category, likely to indicate ‘Elevated Pastoral’ (see general Liber introduction, and drawings Tate D08103, D08112, D08117, D08122, D08128, D08132, D08137, D08141, D08146, D08147, D08152, D08155, D08163, D08168; Turner Bequest CXVI B, K, P, U, CXVII A, E, J, N, R, S, X, CXVIII A, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII I, N).
Thomas Lupton etched and engraved a facsimile of the print in 1858, as ‘Raglan Castle’, one of an unpublished series for the London dealer Colnaghi13 (see general Liber introduction).
Frank Short included this composition14 among his Twelve Subjects from the Liber Studiorum of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Etched and Mezzotinted by Frank Short (published by Robert Dunthorne of the Rembrandt Gallery, London, between 1885 and 1888), the first series of his Liber interpretations (Tate T0505015 and T05051;16 see general Liber introduction).
Walter Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Founded on Letters and Papers Furnished by his Friends and Fellow-Academicians, London 1862 [1861], vol.II, p.365; see Forrester 1996, p.119.
[Taylor and Vaughan] 1872, p.40.
Rawlinson 1878, p.119.
Finberg 1909, I, p.322.
Finberg 1924, p.231.
Forrester 1996, pp.119, 120 note 4.
Upstone 1989, p.32.
Cook and Wedderburn VII 1903, pp.433, 434; see also unpublished variant transcribed in ibid., p.480.
Brooke 1885, p.199.
Forrester 1996, p.161 (transcribed).
Finberg 1910, p.82; reconsidered in Finberg 1924, pp.li–iii.
Rawlinson 1878, pp.116–25; 1906, pp.137–47; Finberg 1924, pp.225–44.
Ibid.: 1878, p.197; 1906, p.232; 1924, p.232.
Hardie 1938, pp.49–50 no.10.
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986 – 88, London 1996, p.71.
Ibid., p.71, reproduced.
Technical notes:
The sheet is not watermarked, but has been identified as once being part of the Studies for Liber sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CXV),1 made up of ‘J Whatman | 1807’ paper;2 as it has been trimmed to the image as engraved (intact pages in the sketchbook being 230 x 381 mm), it is not possible to establish its original location in the book by matching it to the stubs that remain there. Though the intermittently sparse detail would have been difficult for an engraver to interpret, in this case Turner himself undertook that aspect of production. The watercolour was applied with a fine brush, using curled brushstrokes for the trees, with pale sepia-coloured washes to fill them in. Washes were worked vigorously with the fingers,3 with prominent prints at the lower left, to the right of the bridge, and below the castle. The burnt sienna washes are made with a fine-grained pigment. The overall warm browns, with cooler greyish areas, result from the use of the burnt sienna and sepia-toned pigments.4 The washes are very slight, fluid and arbitrary in places such as the main tree; the strokes of the bridge are blurred, and there are dark blots down the central strip of foliage and branches.
Perhaps because of this freedom, the drawing is one of the few among the Liber designs to have been praised in its own right. Gerald Wilkinson described it as one of the ‘more advanced Liber drawings’, where ‘the line is free. It plays a virtuoso part in the composition. Line and wash interpenetrate; they work together and separately, now combining, now falling delicately apart, and sometimes each playfully taking up the function of the other. This is the true relationship of line with brushwork, and in rediscovering it ... Turner came close to the spirit of Claude.’5 (See general Liber introduction for the influence of Claude Lorrain.) There is a wash drawing of woods and water with distant architecture, using a similarly loose technique, in the Ruskin School Collection at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; John Ruskin had owned it and initially catalogued it as a design for the Liber.6
Forrester 1996, pp.15, 24 note 82 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8); see also Bower, Tate conservation files.
Ibid., p.119 (analysis by Bower, as noted above); see also Bower, Tate conservation files.
Townsend 1996, I, p.378.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
Wilkinson 1982, pp.23–4; see also Herrmann 1990, pp.62, 64.
Herrmann 1968, p.93 no.75, pl.XVI; see also Forrester 1996, pp.21, 120 and note 8..
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘58’ and ‘E’ centre right, and ?by Henry Vaughan1 ‘Ragland -’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘[crown] | N•G | CXVIII – E’ bottom centre
There is a stray diagonal pencil mark running off the sheet at the lower centre.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

Forrester 1996, p.119.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Berry Pomeroy Castle (‘Raglan Castle’) c.1812–15 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2008, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-berry-pomeroy-castle-raglan-castle-r1131762, accessed 20 June 2024.