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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Criccieth Castle c.1836

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Criccieth Castle c.1836
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 52
Pencil, watercolour and gouache on white wove paper, 344 x 489 mm
Inscribed in red ink ‘52’ bottom right
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 52’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This is one of four colour studies linked by Eric Shanes with varying degrees of certainty to the watercolour of about 1836 showing the castle at Criccieth, near Porthmadog, Gwynedd, on its headland looking overlooking Tremadog Bay to the south (British Museum, London),1 engraved as Crickieth [sic] Castle, North Wales in 1837 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04610, T06126). The others are Tate D25161, D25170 and D25293 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 39, 48, 171). Of three pencil sketches of Criccieth in the 1798 North Wales sketchbook (Tate D01378–D01380; Turner Bequest XXXIX 23, 24, 25), D01379 is closest to the finished watercolour, though with considerable differences.
In this ‘basic colour structure’,2 the castle appears to be outlined at the summit of a bright hill to the right, balanced by a dark pyramid of cloud to the left. In the England and Wales watercolour, the pale castle is at the apex of a dark hill in the left, with a bright area of distant hills and sky to the right. Nevertheless, Shanes’s suggestion is persuasive, as the overall form of dark and light triangles above a bright strip (the beach), as well as the general colour masses and some specific cloud shapes, can be read as corresponding quite closely.3
Ian Warrell has suggested the present work as a study for the ambitious watercolour Bamborough Castle (private collection),4 exhibited at the Graphic Society, London, in 1837.5 There are four considerably larger ‘colour beginnings’ linked to it elsewhere in the present catalogue (Tate D25456, D25457, D25506, D36321; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 333, 334, 382, CCCLXV 30), but the forms here, while comparable with those of the last of the four in particular, seem more likely to relate to the Criccieth design, which is on a sheet of similar dimensions.
See also Tate D25176 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 54), which Finberg thought possibly showed Criccieth, but which may be of Conway Castle, 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.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.402 no.876, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, p.21.
As discussed in ibid., p.45.
Wilton 1979, p.404 no.895 as ?c.1840; see Turner Society News 2007, p.1, reproduced in colour.
See Warrell 2009, p.176; and Warrell 2013, pp.174, 250.
Technical notes:
There are ‘touches of gouache’ in the sky, ‘probably added while the area was still damp’.1 An x-radiograph has been taken of this sheet.2
Shanes 1997, p.45.
Townsend 1992, p.64.
Blank (not examined out of frame).

Matthew Imms
March 2013

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Criccieth Castle c.1836 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-criccieth-castle-r1144248, accessed 20 May 2024.