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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Lulworth Castle, Dorsetshire c.1820

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Lulworth Castle, Dorsetshire c.1820
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 271
Pencil and watercolour on white wove paper, 165 x 244 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCLXIV – 271’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This relatively developed ‘colour beginning’ is, as Eric Shanes recognised,1 a variant on the finished watercolour of about 1820, Lulworth Castle, Dorsetshire (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven), engraved in 1821 for the Southern Coast series (Tate impressions: T04400–T04401, T05351–T05359, T05984).2 Turner had visited the castle on his West Country tour of 1811, and made a pencil drawing of the scene in the Corfe to Dartmouth sketchbook (Tate D08828; Turner Bequest CXXIV 19), under which the subject is discussed in detail.
Here and in the finished composition he introduced a stand of trees on the left. While in the current work there is the pale form of a single figure, perhaps in an agricultural smock,3 the final version shows a similarly dressed figure reclining with a fishing rod while cows stand in a shaded stream, and a passing sailor stands conversing and pointing out of the picture. While the introduction or alteration of figures is not unusual in Turner’s progression from his usually unpopulated pencil sketches to a completed statement, it is more striking that the westward prospect is here lit by morning light from behind the viewer, illuminating the façades of the castle and nearby church, whereas ultimately the sun would be shown within the picture space, dipping towards the horizon in the right and silhouetting the battlements. As Shanes remarks, there seems no particular reason for two approaches, other than Turner’s perhaps ‘being unsure as to which he preferred, and so he tried both.’4 See the entry for Tate D25392 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 269) for a similar change.
See Shanes 1997, pp.11, 19, 28, 54, 95, 102.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.353 no.467, reproduced.
See Shanes 1997, p.54.
Ibid.; see also pp.11, 19.
Technical notes:
There is some light pencil work defining the castle, while the pale figure may have initially been reserved, or subsequently washed out.
Effectively blank, but with washed bands of yellows and blues, similar to the colours used on the recto. Inscribed in pencil ‘17’ at centre; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCLXIV – 271’ towards bottom left.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Lulworth Castle, Dorsetshire c.1820 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 2016, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, February 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-lulworth-castle-dorsetshire-r1184419, accessed 20 May 2024.