- Museum number
Caernarvon Castle; the castle seen in the mid-distance, a boat with two female figures in the foreground, two swimming nearby, further boats beyond, figures on the shore at right. c.1833
Watercolour, over graphite
- Production date
- 1833 (circa)
Height: 278 millimetres
Width: 418 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Engraved by W Radclyffe, 1835, for 'England and Wales'.
This view of Caernarvon is quite different in mood from the artist's romantic and often 'sublime' interpretations of the landscape of North Wales which he produced after his first visits there in the late 1790s. In 1800, however, he exhibited at the Royal Academy a very Claudian vision of Caernarvon, with the castle a focal point in the distance. Returning to the subject for this later series of water-colours, he attempted in one of his colour beginnings¹ to work out a composition in which the castle was brought forward to create a backdrop to a twilight scene, where the shape of the castle and its reflection, and a darker bulk indicating a bank on the right, were bathed in a diffuse, floating mass of light. He managed to transfer this successfully to the final watercolour, using the palest yellows and touches of vermilion and purple to convey the overwhelming hazy heat at the end of a summer's day. Desperate to find relief, horses bathe in the river by the still moored boats, their sails useless without a breeze, while a group of young women have sought refuge by bathing in the harbour. Two already in the water are depicted as classical nude nymphs, but nineteenth-century modesty has halted one of the others, her cheeks blushing in the realisation that there is an audience on the bank. If the castle's outline did not make the Welsh location immediately evident, the costumes of the children on the right and the coracle beside them left no room for doubt.
Ruskin was obviously fond of this watercolour, hanging it with his favourites in his bedroom and retaining it until his death.² In his notes for the Fine Art Society exhibitions in 1878 and 1900 he described it as
"Quite one of the most exquisite pieces of Turner's twilight mist. Its primrose-coloured sky has been often objected to . . . But any one with real eyes for colour, who will look well into the drawing of the rosy towers, and purple mountains and clouds beyond the Menai, will be thankful for them in their perfectness, and very glad that Turner did not what a common painter would, darken them all down to throw out his twilight."³
1. TB CCLXIII 9; BM 1975 (198); Shanes 1997 (12).
2. See Whitworth 1989 (34), which reproduces in colour A. Severn's watercolour of 'Ruskin's bedroom,, Brantwood', 1900.
3. FAS 1900, pp. 40-41.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1878, FAS, no.40
1910, Agnew's, no.30
1959, 1960, BM
1966 Feb, BM, Turner Lloyd Bequest, no.31
1969 Feb, BM, Turner Lloyd Bequest, no.31
1975, BM, Turner in the BM, no.199
1985, BM, British Landscape Watercolours 1600-1860, no.94
1990 Apr-Aug, BM, Treasures of P&D, (no cat.)
1998 May-Sept., BM, J.M.W.Turner: Lloyd Bequest, no.33
- Associated titles
Associated Title: England and Wales
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- UNDER THE TERMS OF THE BEQUEST, NONE OF THE PRINTS OR DRAWINGS BEQUEATHED BY R. W. LLOYD MAY BE LENT OUTSIDE THE BRITISH MUSEUM (Registration Numbers 1958,0712.318 to 3149).
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number