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Creator:
Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775–1851
Title:

Harlech Castle, from Tygwyn Ferry, Summer's Evening Twilight [1799, Royal Academy of Arts, London, exhibition catalogue]

Former Title(s):

Harlech Castle, from Twgwyn Ferry, Summer's Evening Twilight

Date:
1799
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
34 1/4 x 47 inches (87 x 119.4 cm), Frame: 41 3/4 × 54 3/4 × 4 inches (106 × 139.1 × 10.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1977.14.76
Classification:
Paintings
Collection:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
castle | children | costume | evening | landscape | men | mountains | rocks (landforms) | sea | ships | summer | women
Associated Places:
Caernarfonshire and Merionethshire | Cymru | Harlech | Harlech Castle | United Kingdom | Wales
Access:
On view at the Yale University Art Gallery
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:5008
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Harlech Castle was one of the coastal strongholds built in the thirteenth century by King Edward I of England to secure his conquest of North Wales. The melancholy atmosphere of Turner's view fits the historical associations of the place as a symbol of the oppression and suffering of the Welsh people; and the end-of-the-world feeling reflects the widespread impression among a rapidly growing number of travelers that Wales was a raw, tough country, far removed from the comforts and subtleties of civilized life.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005
The thirteenth-century Harlech Castle, shown in the distance on the left, was one of the coastal strongholds built by the English king Edward I to secure his conquest of North Wales. Turner visited the castle during a sketching tour of Wales in the summer of 1798 and painted the present canvas in his London studio from drawings made on the spot. One of these he worked up in watercolor, possibly as a preparation for the painting, possibly to provide an idea of its final appearance for the patron who commissioned it, the Hon. Edward Spencer Cowper, later 5th Earl Cowper.
The painting is a study of twilight, in which the artist seems to be darkening his scene to the limit, testing how far he might go in suppressing color and detail. The process reduces much of the landscape to interlocking wedge shapes differentiated by tone and brings attention to the relatively bright light of the sunset and the gleam on the waters of the estuary, both of which are observed with an effortless acuity. Some of the most telling forms in the composition are silhouettes, with the four-square castle played off against more complicated clusters of buildings, ships and rigging, and a skeletal hull under repair in a shipyard. Turner underlined the twilight theme in both his title for the painting and the literary extract that he had printed in the catalogue when the work was ?rst exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1799:
Now came still evening on, and twilight grey,
Had in her sober livery all things clad.
-Hesperus that led
The starry host rode brightest 'till the moon
Rising in clouded majesty unveiled her peerless light.
The lines are a freely adapted quotation from Milton's Paradise Lost (Book IV, lines 598-99 and 605-8), from the poet's description of night falling on the evening of Satan's first attempt, through a dream, to lead Eve into temptation. The first two lines are apt enough, but since the painting shows neither Hesperus, the evening star, nor the moon, it is unclear what the other three add.
The abstracting effect on the landscape of fading light was a preoccupation of both Claude Lorrain and Richard Wilson, the predecessors to whom Turner was looking most intensely at this early stage in his career as a painter. One reviewer of the Royal Academy exhibition, writing in the True Briton, recognized this highly respectable artistic lineage but feared that the young man's taste for dusk and abstraction would lead him to sacrifice his great gift for observing nature:
This Landscape, though it combines the style of CLAUDE and of our excellent WILSON, yet wears an aspect of originality, that shows the painter looks at Nature with his own eyes. We advise MR. TURNER, however, with all our admiration of his works, not to indulge a fear of being too accurately minute, lest he should get into the habit of indistinctness and confusion.[1] The sombreness of Harlech Castle is more than just a matter of artistic style and tradition, however. The overall gloom and melancholy about the scene fits the historical associations of the castle, which was a symbol of the oppression and suffering of the Welsh people. The forlorn-looking group of mothers and children on the rocky promontory in the foreground, presumably waiting for the ferry, might almost represent the Welsh and Wales in microcosm. Certainly there is an end-of-the-world feeling that reflects the general image of Wales at this time as a raw, tough place, far removed from the comforts and subtleties of civilized life.

[1] Butlin and Joll, 7.

Malcolm Warner

Malcolm Warner, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 86, no. 30, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA)

In a New Light: Paintings from the Yale Center for British Art (Yale University Art Gallery, 2023-03-24 - 2023-12-03) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Art in Focus : Wales (Yale Center for British Art, 2014-04-04 - 2014-08-10) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Turner and the Masters (Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2010-02-22 - 2010-05-23) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Turner and the Masters (Tate Britain, 2009-09-21 - 2010-01-24) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

J.M.W. Turner (Kunsthaus Zurich, 2002-02-26 - 2002-05-26) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

J.M.W. Turner (Museum Folkwang, 2001-09-14 - 2002-01-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of South Australia, 1998-09-16 - 1998-11-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Queensland Art Gallery, 1998-07-15 - 1998-09-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1998-05-01 - 1998-07-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Gentle, Rural and Sublime - English Landscape Paintings and Watercolors, 1750-1850 (Denver Art Museum, 1993-12-11 - 1994-02-06) [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]

Turner in Wales (Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, 1984-09-22 - 1984-11-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Turner in Wales (The Mostyn Art Gallery, 1984-07-14 - 1984-09-08) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Presences of Nature - British Landscape 1780-1830 (Yale Center for British Art, 1982-10-20 - 1983-02-27) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

J. M. W. Turner - A Selection of Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon (National Gallery of Art, 1968-10-31 - 1969-04-21) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Painting in England 1700-1850 - From The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon (Yale University Art Gallery, 1965-04-15 - 1965-06-20) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

A Great Collection of British Pictures in Virginia, The Times (London), Issue No. 55689, May 1, 1963, p. 5, Available Online : Times Digital Archive Also available on Microfilm: Film An T482 (SML) [ORBIS]

Katharine Baetjer, Glorious nature, British landscape painting, 1750-1850 , Zwemmer publisher, London, 1993, pp. 38-40,180-81, no. 50, ND1354.4 B34 1993 (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Baskett, Painting in England: 1700-1850: the Collection of English paintings formed by Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon : on Exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, until August 18th, , Connoisseur, Vol. 153, London, June 1963, p. 101, N1 C75 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Mila Boutan, Turner et Moi, RMN Jeunesse, Paris, 2010, p. 22, No copy available at Yale Only locations given in WorldCat (4/21/12) are in France. N.B. This is a book written for a "Juvenile" audience

Martin Butlin, The paintings of J.M.W. Turner, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven, 1984, pp. 6-7, no. 9, pl. 8, NJ18 T85 B885 1984 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 224-225, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Megan Cullen, Fairest isle : the appreciation of British scenery, 1750-1850 : [exhibition] label copy. Yale Center for British Art, April 12-June 25, 1989., , Yale Center for British Art, [New Haven, 1989, p. 39, no. 85, ND1354.4 F351 1989 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Exhibition catalogue. 1799. 31th, Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, no. 31, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1799, p. 9, no. 192, N5054 A53 v. 2 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Exhibition of Works by [ the ] Old Masters and by deceased masters of the British School including a collection of paintings by Albert Cuyp and of works by some English Landscape painters also . . . Winter Exhibition 34th Year, Royal Academy of Arts, 1903, p. 11, no. 29, Fiche B138 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Guillaume Faroult, Turner et ses peintres, [expositions], Tate Britain, Londres, 23 septembre 2009-31 janvier 2010 ; galeries nationales, grand palais, Paris, 22 février-24 mai 2010 ; museo nacional del Prado, Madrid, 21 juin-19 septembre 2010 , Editions Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 2010, p. 8, fig. 5, Nj18 T85 F37 2010 (YCBA) [YCBA]

A. J. Finberg, The life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A. : with a supplment by Hilda F. Finberg, , Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1961, pp. 56, 461, no. 50, NJ18 T85 F55 1961 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Catherine M. Gordon, British paintings Hogarth to Turner, Frederick Warne, London, 1981, p. 67, ND466 G67 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Harlech (Now First Produced) by J.M.W. Turner, R.A., Magazine of Art, vol. 2, January 1904, p. 238, N1 M34 + (YCBA) Available online in British Periodical Database. [YCBA]

Harlech Castle, North Wales, Art in America, vol. 69, November 1981, p. 152, N1 A43 OVERSIZE (HAAS) [ORBIS]

Louis Hawes, Presences of Nature : British Landscape, 1780-1830, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1982, pp. 123-24; 130, I. 21; II.9, pl. 21, ND1354.4 H38 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Luke Herrmann, The Paul Mellon Collection at Burlington House, Connoisseur, v. 157, no. 634, December 1964, p. 218, N1 C75 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) Another copy available in YCBA Vertical File Collection: v 2334 [YCBA]

J.M.W. Turner : a selection of paintings from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon., Exhibition held Oct. 31, 1968-Apr. 21, 1969 in the National Gallery of Art , National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1968, pp. 12, 18, no. 3, fig. 3, NJ18 T85 U5 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Kay Dian Kriz, The idea of the English landscape painter, genius as Alibi in the early nineteenth-century , The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven, Conn., 1997, p. 26, fig. 13, ND1354.5 K75 1997 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Peter Lord, The tradition : a new history of Welsh art, 1400-1990, Parthian, Cardigan, 2016, pp. 128, 129, fig. 136, N6792 .L678 2016 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Peter Lord, Visual Culture of Wales : Imaging the Nation, University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2000, pp. 157-58, N6792 L675 2000 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 86, no. 30, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Kathleen Nicholson, Turner, Poetry, and the Transformation of History Painting, Arts Magazine, vol. 56, April 1982, p. 92, N1 A415 OVERSIZE (HAAS) [ORBIS]

Frederic Ogee, Turner, les paysages absolus , Hazan, Paris, 2010, pp. 78, 132-3, NJ18 T85 O34 2010 (YCBA) [YCBA]

On the trail of Turner in North and South Wales., Cadw, Cardiff [Wales], 1995, p. 32, NJ18 T85 O56 1995 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Painting in England 1700-1850 from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, The Royal Academy of Arts Winter Exhibition 1964-65., , Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK, 1964, pp. 50-1 (v.1), no. 183, pl. 60, ND466 R68 1964/65 (YCBA) Also available on Microfiche: Fiche B214 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Painting in England 1700-1850, collection of Mr. & Mrs. Paul Mellon. , Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, 1963, pp. 88 (v.1), no. 130, pl. 188, ND466 V57 v.1-2 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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. 11, no. 85, ND1354.4 F35 (YCBA) [YCBA]

David H. Solkin, Turner and the masters, Tate Publishing, London, 2009, pp. 21; 42; 98-9, 101, 114-15, pl. 15, NJ18 T85 T8352 2009+ (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ian Warrell, Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude, National Gallery, London, London, 2012, p.69, NJ18 T85 +W365 2012 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Andrew Wilton, The life and work of J.M.W. Turner, Academy Editions, London, 1979, p. 254, No. P9, NJ18 T85 +W577 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Andrew Wilton, Turner in Wales, The Mostyn Art Gallery, Llandudno (Gwynedd), 1984, p. 60, no. 71, NJ18 T85 W592 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Yale Center for British Art, Selected paintings, drawings & books, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1977, p. 36, N590.2 A82 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Yale Center for British Art, Wales, New Haven, 2014, pp. 12-13, 21, V2519 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Yale University Art Gallery, Painting in England, 1700-1850, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, [exhibition at] Yale University Art Gallery, April 15-June 20, 1965. , vol. 1, W. Clowes and sons, New Haven, 1965, p. 54 (v.1), no. 200, pl. 60, ND466 Y35 (YCBA) [YCBA]


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