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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Norham Castle on the Tweed c.1806-7

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Norham Castle on the Tweed circa 1806–7
Turner Bequest CXVIII D
Watercolour on off-white wove writing paper, 192 x 274 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom left
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Etching and mezzotint by J.M.W. Turner and Charles Turner, ‘Norham Castle on The Tweed.’, published J.M.W. Turner, 1 January 1816
Norham lies on the Tweed in Northumberland, six miles inland from Berwick-upon-Tweed; at this point, the river marks the border between England and (to the left of the present composition) Scotland. The castle dates from the late twelfth century. Three other Liber Studiorum designs were based on drawings from the same tour: Holy Island Cathedral, Dunstanborough Castle and The Crypt of Kirkstall Abbey (see Tate D08115, D08118, D08142; Turner Bequest CXVI N, Q, CXVII O).
The Liber design was ultimately derived from a pencil study in the North of England sketchbook (Tate D00966; Turner Bequest XXXIV 57), which had been developed through two pencil and watercolour studies (Tate D02343, D02344; Turner Bequest L B, C) towards two similar finished watercolours, Norham Castle on the Tweed, Summer’s Morn, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1798 (private collection)1 and Norham Castle, Sunrise, of about the same date (Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford).2
For the Liber – as compared with the four watercolour versions – Turner considerably rearranged and tightened the composition, excluding about a sixth of the landscape at each side, halving the height of the space allowed for the river in the foreground, reducing the gap between the small building on the left and the castle keep, enlarging the cows drinking in the foreground, and generally giving the scene a more intimate, homely air (a similar, though rather more conspicuous, focusing process can be seen in the case of Ships in a Breeze: see Tate D08114; Turner Bequest CXVI M). Although it has been suggested that the ‘Pastoral’ categorisation of the design is inappropriate,3 it was perhaps this subtle domestication in mood (described by Ruskin as ‘the contrast between the pure rustic life of our own day, and the pride and terror of the past’4) that caused the composition to be so labelled, rather than as ‘EP’ (i.e. probably ‘Elevated Pastoral’; see general Liber introduction). The superficially similar River Wye, in the latter category (see Tate D08152; Turner Bequest CXVII X), serves as both a comparison and a contrast.
The composition is recorded, as ‘20 Norham’, in a list of published and unpublished ‘Pastoral’ subjects in the Liber Notes (2) sketchbook (Tate D12160; Turner Bequest CLIV (a) 25a).5
The Liber Studiorum etching and mezzotint engraving, etched by Turner and engraved by Charles Turner, bears the publication date 1 January 1816 and was issued to subscribers as ‘Norham Castle on The Tweed. | the Drawing in the Possession of the late Lord Lascells’ in part 12 (Rawlinson/Finberg nos.57–61;6 see also Tate D08159–D08162; Turner Bequest CXVIII F, H, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII E, G). Tate holds impressions of the preliminary outline etching (Tate A01119) and the published engraving (A01120). It is one of fourteen published Liber Studiorum subjects in Turner’s ‘Pastoral’ category (see also Tate D08102, D08111, D08116, D08121, D08127, D08136, D08140, D08145, D08151, D08167; Turner Bequest CXVI A, J, O, T, Z, CXVII I, M, Q, W, CXVIII M; and Tate N02941).
Turner evidently found Norham ‘inspirational’,7 returning briefly to sketch on Scottish tours in 1801 and 1831, and producing further finished watercolours: one, commissioned by Walter Fawkes around 1822 as an informal illustration to Sir Walter Scott (private collection)8 is a compressed, upright interpretation flooded with afternoon light; another, commissioned for engraving in an 1834 edition of Scott, shows fishermen instead of cows, and the moon rising behind the castle (private collection).9 In between came the design (Tate D18148; Turner Bequest CCVIII O)10 engraved in 1824 for the Rivers of England, which is a variant of the Liber design, but distinguished most immediately by its intense, jewel-like colouring.
Finally, towards the end of his career, Turner used the Liber composition for one of a series of oil paintings reinterpreting the series, perhaps prompted by his limited reprinting of the engravings in 1845 (see general Liber introduction for details); the painting, Norham Castle, Sunrise, is one of the most celebrated late, unfinished works in the Turner Bequest (Tate N01981).11
Between 1858 and 1865, Thomas Lupton etched and engraved a facsimile of the print as one of an unpublished series for the London dealer Colnaghi12 (see general Liber introduction).
Wilton 1979, p.324 no.225.
Ibid., pp.324–5 no.226.
Martin Butlin, Andrew Wilton and John Gage, Turner 1775–1851, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1974, p.173.
Cook and Wedderburn XIII 1904, p.121.
Forrester 1996, p.161 (transcribed).
Rawlinson 1878, pp.116–25; 1906, pp.137–47; Finberg 1924, pp.225–44.
Hill 1997, p.88(–[93]); see also ‘Retrospect: Norham Castle 1798–1840’, in Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, pp.172–4.
Wilton 1979, p.424 no.1052.
Ibid., p.430 no.1099.
Ibid., p.385 no.736, reproduced p.161 pl.175 (colour).
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.301–2 no.512, pl.514 (colour).
Rawlinson 1878, p.197; 1906, p.232; Finberg 1924, p.228.
Technical notes:
The sheet is not watermarked, but its batch has been identified as ‘J Whatman | 1801’.1 The paper may have been washed initially. Washes were followed by brushwork and scratching-out. The sky was washed onto wet paper. A heavy, glossy wash emphasises the darkest cow in the foreground, and the boat balancing it compositionally on the left. The overall cool brown colour, with warm brown details, is made up of Indian red, umber and sepia pigments.2 As has been observed,3 the series of engraver’s proofs leading to the first state of the subsequent engraving show a progressive dramatisation of the morning sky culminating in bright rays, not represented in the drawing, emanating from behind the central tower.
Forrester 1996, p.118 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8); Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.41 note 1.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
Finberg 1924, p.228; Forrester 1996, p.118.
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘<D 57>’ centre right, and ‘D.08158’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘[crown] | N•G | CXVIII – D’ bottom left

Matthew Imms
August 2008

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Norham Castle on the Tweed c.1806–7 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-norham-castle-on-the-tweed-r1131761, accessed 20 June 2024.