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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Caernarvon Castle with Shipping: Moonlight c.1798-9

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 43 Verso:
Caernarvon Castle with Shipping: Moonlight c.1798–9
Turner Bequest XLIII 42a
Watercolour and gouache on blue laid paper prepared with a red-brown ground, 140 x 216 mm
Stamped in black ‘XLIII – 42’ bottom right, ascending vertically
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Made with the page turned horizontally, this is one of a sequence of studies in blue wash in this book; see also folios 42 verso, 44 verso and 45 verso (D01860, D01864, D01866; Turner Bequest XLIII 41a, 43a, 44a). They all relate to the large finished watercolour, Caernarvon Castle, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1799 (private collection).1 That shows the castle in a warm sunset glow, but it is clear from this and some others of the group that Turner was also contemplating a moonlight subject. He had already shown two moonlights in oils at the Academy: Fishermen at Sea (Tate T01585)2 in 1796 and Moonlight, a Study at Millbank (Tate N00459)3 in 1797.
The clutter of masts against the silhouette of the castle is typical of Turner’s interests about this time; a similar tangle occurs in Harlech Castle, from Twgwyn Ferry, Summer’s Evening Twilight, also of 1799 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven).4 Another example of the superimposition of ship’s tackle on the mass of a building is D01866.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.328 no.254, pl.47 (colour).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.1–2 no.1, pl.1 (colour).
Ibid., p.2 no.2, pl.2 (colour).
Ibid., pp.6–7 no.9, pl.8 (colour).

How to cite

Andrew Wilton, ‘Caernarvon Castle with Shipping: Moonlight c.1798–9 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, May 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, April 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-caernarvon-castle-with-shipping-moonlight-r1174062, accessed 25 February 2021.