<< YCBA Home Yale Center for British Art Yale Center for British Art << YCBA Home

YCBA Collections Search

 
IIIF Actions
Creator:
John Varley, 1778–1842, British
Title:

Chepstow Castle

Date:
1832
Medium:
Watercolor on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper
Dimensions:
12 x 25 1/4 inches (30.5 x 64.1 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Inscribed in pen and black ink lower right: "J.Varley | 1832."

Signed and dated in pen and black ink lower right: "J.Varley | 1832."

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1975.4.1886
Classification:
Drawings & Watercolors
Collection:
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
arches | castle | cliffs | clouds | hills | houses | landscape | plains | river | rocks (landforms) | ruins | smoke | towers | trees | turrets | walls
Associated Places:
Chepstow | Chepstow Castle | Cymru | Monmouthshire | United Kingdom | Wales
Access:
View by request in the Study Room [Request]
Note: The Study Room is open by appointment. Please visit the Study Room page on our website for more details.
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:13049
Export:
XML
IIIF Manifest:
JSON

The impact of Varley's shift towards a more formulaic Claudean mode of landscape is evident in Chepstow Castle, which is dated 1832, and was likely to have been the view of Chepstow he exhibited with the Society of Painters in Water-Colours the following year. When Varley first toured Wales in 1798, his series of landscapes were firmly in the manner of Girtin. In this example, three decades later, there is nothing of the rich, mellow coloring, and the fluid washes the latter had introduced into watercolor. Instead, Varley's palette is remarkably light, his tones bright, and his technique has a clarity more readily associated with Paul Sandby (cat. nos. 4-6) than Girtin. This shift in style has significant consequences for the way the subject is interpreted by the viewer. Chepstow Castle perches broodingly on a crag overlooking the River Wye in South Wales, close to the mouth of the Severn estuary. The location of Chepstow marks one of the few places where ships could cross between England into Wales, and the castle was begun by William fitz Osbern in 1067 to assert Norman control over the Welsh border and as a base to conquer southern Wales. By the late eighteenth century, this imposing fortress had become little more than an obiect of antiquarian interest. When the Rev. William Gilpin toured this part of the Wye in 1770, his classic account noted: "We cannot call these views picturesque ... but they are extremely romantic; and give loose to the most pleasing riot of imagination," regretting that he had so little time at Chepstow to "examine the river Wye in South Wales, close to the mouth of the Severn estuary. The location of Chepstow marks one of the few places where ships could cross between England into Wales, and the castle was begun by William fitz Osbern in 1067 to assert Norman control over the Welsh border and as a base to conquer southern Wales. By the late eighteenth century, this imposing fortress had become little more than an obiect of antiquarian interest. When the Rev. William Gilpin toured this part of the Wye in 1770, his classic account noted: "We cannot call these views picturesque ... but they are extremely romantic; and give loose to the most pleasing riot of imagination," regretting that he had so little time at Chepstow to "examine the romantic scenes." The temptation to cast Chepstow as a romantic fortress with its associated ideas of Anglo-Welsh warfare was overwhelming to some art-ists, but Varley's depiction shuns this, taking instead a high viewpoint above the Wye, from where the valley can be seen spreading out into the distance towards the Severn. The unmistakably Claudean device of framing trees to the right, an expansive horizon, and even light suggest a landscape of harmony that quite effaces the castle's original purpose as a vital military stronghold. Although his later works may lack the freshness of his earlier watercolors, Varley's teaching continued to remain a vital force in promoting new approaches to the medium in the nineteenth century.

Matthew Hargraves

Hargraves, Matthew, and Scott Wilcox. Great British Watercolors: from the Paul Mellon collection. New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 2008, pp. 126-128, no. 55

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-06-09 - 2008-08-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (The State Hermitage Museum, 2007-10-23 - 2008-01-13) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2007-07-11 - 2007-09-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Fairest Isle - The Appreciation of British Scenery 1750-1850 (Yale Center for British Art, 1989-04-12 - 1989-06-25) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Duncan Robinson, Fairest isle, the appreciation of British scenery, 1750-1850 : Yale Center for British Art, April 12-June 25, 1989. , Yale Center for British Art, [New Haven, 1989, p. 3, no. 10, ND1354.4 F35 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Yale Center for British Art, Great British watercolors : from the Paul Mellon Collection, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2007, pp. 127-29, no. 55, ND1928 .Y35 2007 (LC)+ Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]


If you have information about this object that may be of assistance please contact us.