The Castles Painted by Romantic Painter William Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner, also known as J.M.W. Turner was an English painter that lived from 1775 to 1851. Turner is considered to be one of the best landscape painters in Western art. He was well known for his use of color, lighting, and expressive scenes of natural landscape.

J.M.W. Turner lived during the Romanticism movement. In this time, castles or castle ruins became widely popular for artists to use in their work. J.M.W. Turner painted many castles in England, Wales, and Scotland. This article will show you the castles that William Turner painted in Britain as well as castles in Italy, Switzerland, and Germany.

Welsh Castles Painted by J.M.W. Turner

In 1798, J.M.W. Turner went on a tour of Wales. During his time there, he visited several Welsh castles that had become popular in the Picturesque period. The castles in Wales painted by J.M.W. Turner ran among the finest medieval castles in Europe and some are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle in northeast Wales is one of the finest castles of the Middle Ages. The fortress and palace was built in the 11th century as a wooden motte and bailey castle. But King Edward I of England transformed the castle into the grand stone building that you can see today. And it wasn’t just the castle that Edward built, together with his military architect Master James of St. George he also built the town walls and a quay.

Caernarvon Castle by J.M.W. Turner, 1799

The castle was built as a response to the war with the Welsh princes and the curtain walls and King’s Gate is a testament to that. But you can also find polygonal towers, eagle statues, and multi-colored masonry which were inspired by Roman architecture.

Caernarfon Castle (or Caernarvon Castle) is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Castle and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd”.  William Turner visited North Wales in 1798 and he made several works of Caernarfon Castle.

Caernarvon Castle by J.M.W. Turner, oil paint on pine, Tate

The oil sketch is a step towards the large watercolor version that he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1799. Both versions and the other sketches are part of the Tate Britain collection.   

Caernarvon Castle, North Wales, watercolor on paper, Tate Britain

Cilgerran Castle

Cilgerran Castle is a 13th century ruined castle in Wales that is owned by the National Trust. The original castle was built by Gerald of Windsor around 1110 but the current stone structure dates from the early 13th century and was built by William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. The 800-year-old fortress overlooks the beautiful Teifi Gorge and you can see why it inspired so many artists.

Kilgarran Castle on the Twyvey, Hazy Sunrise, previous to a Sultry Day by J.M.W. Turner, 1799, National Trust

J.M.W. Turner painted Cilgerran Castle several times after he visited the castle on his trip to Wales. The paintings are in the collection of the Tate Museum.  

Harlech Castle

The spectacular medieval fortress Harlech Castle stands on a rocky hill, close to the Irish Sea. Harlech Castle is one of the castles built by King Edward I during his invasion of Wales in the 13th century. The fortress was the site of several sieges and wars, changing hands between the Welshmen and the English several times.

Just like the other castles built by Edward I (Beaumaris Castle, Conwy Castle, and Caernarfon Castle) Harlech Castle is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These castles are one of the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe.

J.M.W. Turner, Harlech Castle, from Tygwyn Ferry, Summer’s Evening Twilight, 1799, Oil on Canvas, Yale Center for British Art

The picturesque castle ruins became a popular destination for artists in the 18th and 19th centuries. J.M.W. Turner painted Harlech Castle in 1799, the painting is in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art in Connecticut.  

Dolbadarn Castle

On a secluded spot, overlooking the waters of Llyn Padarn, Dolbadarn Castle was an important defence structure in the kingdom of Gwynedd in Wales. The castle was constructed by Llywelyn the Great in the late 12th or early 13th century in a strategic location guarding the route from Caernarfon to the upper Conwy Valley.

Only parts of the curtain wall and the round keep have survived and these ruins became a popular destination for Picturesque painters like J.M.W. Turner. Turner painted the castle several times.

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a medieval castle beside Pembroke River in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The first castle was built by Arnhulf of Montgomery during the Norman invasion of Wales. The stone castle you see today was built by William Marshal in the 12th century. The castle was abandoned after the Second Civil War. It was not restored until  1880 so in J.M.W. Turner’s time the castle was still a ruin.

pembroke castle
J.M.W. Turner, Pembroke Castle, Watercolor, Tate Britain
J.M.W. Turner, Pembroke Castle, c.1829–30, Watercolor on Paper

This watercolor of Pembroke Castle is one of 97 watercolours that the William Turner produced for a series of 96 engravings. Entitled Picturesque Views in England and Wales.

English and Scottish Castles Painted by J.M.W. Turner

William Turner lived his entire life in London. During his life, he often traveled through England to paint the landscape. As the English landscape is filled with castles, he often painted the castles in England. Turner also stayed at the castles that he painted. He was a frequent guest of architect John Nash and the Earl of Egremont, owner of Pembroke castle, was a patron of J.M.W. Turner.

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle is a 14th century fortification of the coast in Northern England. The castle was built on the site of an Iron Age fort by Earl Thomas of Lancaster who was in conflict with King Edward II. The Earl only visited the castle once before he was captured and executed after the Battle of Boroughbridge.  

The twin-towered gatehouse was turned into a keep by John of Gaunt and it was the site of several battles during the Wars of the Roses. Eventually, the castle fell into decay. The ruined castle became a popular subject for artists including J.M.W. Turner who painted the castle in 1798. The painting of Dunstanburgh Castle was the first oil painting that J.M.W. Turner sold from the walls of the Royal Academy. In Turner’s “North of England” sketchbook you can also see several sketches of the castle.

J.M.W. Turner, Dunstanburgh Castle, north-east coast of Northumberland, sunrise after a squally night, 1798, National Gallery of Victoria

The painting of Dunstanburgh Castle was gifted to the National Gallery of Victoria by the Duke of Westminster in 1888.  

Hampton Court Castle

Hampton Court Castle (not to be confused with Hampton Court Palace) is a castellated country house in Herefordshire. The castle was built in the early 15th century by Sir Rowland Lenthall when the estate was granted to him after his marriage to the King’s cousin. The castle changed hands several times and the design changed with it. In the 1830s and 40s, the castle was remodeled again to change it back to its castle-like layout, exterior, and décor.

J.M.W. Turner, View of Hampton Court, Herefordshire from the Southeast, 1806, Yale Center for British Art
J.M.W. Turner, Hampton Court from the Thames, c. 1806–7, Tate Britain

Windsor Castle

It’s one of the most famous castles in England and the world. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world that was founded in Norman times by William the Conqueror. It was built as part of a defensive ring around London and it’s located near the River Thames.

The castle is now known as a Royal residence for the House of Windsor. J.M.W. Turner often painted the castle during his lifetime.  

J.M.W. Turner, Windsor Castle from the Thames
J.M.W. Turner, A Thames Backwater with Windsor Castle in the Distance, National Gallery

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace near Edinburgh was one of the principal residences of the Scottish monarchy in the 15th and 16th centuries. The palace was built in the 15th century by King James I and it was also the birthplace of Scotland’s most famous Queen, Mary Stuart.

In 1746, a fire raged through the castle leaving it roofless and in a ruined state.

J.M.W. Turner, Linlithgow Palace, 1807, National Museums Liverpool

William Turner made several sketches of Linlithgow Palace during his tour of Scotland in 1801. This oil painting of Linlithgow Palace is based on one of his sketches.

Petworth House

The 17th century Baroque country house near Brighton is a grand country house built by Charles Seymour, the 6th Duke of Somerset. The Duke wanted the house to rival the grand palaces in Europe and it is one of the many stately homes that was inspired by Versailles.

Many English romantic painters visited the house during its “golden age”. The 3rd Earl of Egremont was an important art collector and also a patron to contemporary artists like J.M.W. Turner. Turner often visited and painted the house and parkland. The house still has a large art collection including 19 oil paintings by J.M.W. Turner.

J.M.W. Turner, Petworth, Sussex the Seat of the Earl of Egremont, Dewy Morning, 1810, Tate Britain

Cockermouth Castle

Cockermouth Castle is a partly ruined castle in Cumbria. The origins of the castle goes back to Norman times but the stone structure dates from the 13th century, using stone from the Roman settlement that stood on this site.

The castle played a big part in the Wars of the Roses and the Civil Wars in the 1640s. After this, parliament ordered that much of the castle was to be destroyed.

J.M.W. Turner, Cockermouth Castle, 1810, Tate Britain

The painting of Cockermouth Castle was painted for the third Earl of Egremont. The painting is shown at Petworth House.

East Cowes Castle

East Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight was a Gothic-style castle designed by architect John Nash. The architect also lived at the castle and he invited several notable guests to stay at his home including the Prince Regent (later King George IV) and painter J.M.W. Turner.

During the Second World War, the castle was used by the War Office. It got damaged so badly that the castle was demolished in 1963. But if you want to see an exact replica of the castle, you can do so in Ireland where you will find Lough Cooter Castle in County Galway.

J.M.W. Turner also painted the exterior of East Cowes Castle. In the painting “East Cowes Castle” he depicts the Royal Yacht Club races at the Isle of Wight with the castle in the background. The paintings were painted for John Nash, the owner of East Cowes Castle. The painting is owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

St Michael’s Mount

St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island on the coast of Cornwall. The island has a castle that has been the home of the St Aubyn family since the 1650s. It was not until the 19th century that the castle was used as a residence for the family. It is now owned by the National Trust but the St. Aubyn family still lives at the castle.

English poet John Milton used St Michael’s Mount as the setting for the finale of his poem “Lycidas”. J.M.W. Turner used this poem as the inspiration for his painting. The poem’s scenes of the drowning of Lycidas in the seas below the Mount are painted by Turner. It’s not the only time he painted St Michael’s Mount, an oil painting of the island is shown in the Victoria and Albert Museum.  

Norham Castle

Norham Castle is a castle located on the border between England and Scotland overlooking the River Tweed. It was an important stronghold and it was often attacked and besieged by the Scots. In the late 16th century, the castle was given to George Home, 1st Earl of Dunbar by King James VI of Scotland. After that, the castle was left to ruin. JMW Turner painted the castle for the first time in 1797 but he returned several times to make more paintings of the ruined castle.

J.M.W. Turner, Norham Castle, Sunrise, 1845, Tate Britain

William Turner visited Norham Castle in 1797, 1801 and 1831. This unfinished oil painting was painted late in his career.

Norham Castle, on the River Tweed c.1822-3 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851
J.M.W. Turner, Norham Castle, on the River Tweed, c.1822-3, Tate Britain

European Castles Painted by J.M.W. Turner

In 1802, William Turner started a tour of Europe visiting France, Switzerland, and Italy. He also studied at the Louvre in Paris during this trip.

La Bâtiaz Castle

Château de la Bâtiaz is a 13th century castle in Martigny, Switzerland. The castle is the only medieval structure at this located. The castle was an object of envy and it often changed hangs between the House of Savoy and the Sion bishops.  

J.M.W. Turner, Mountain Scene with Castle

Ducal Palace, Venice

The Ducal Palace in Venice, also known as Doge’s Palace, is a remarkable Gothic building overlooking the Lagoon. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the chief magistrate and leader of the Republic of Venice. The palace was first built in 1340 and in later centuries more wings were added. Doge’s Palace is one of the palaces in Europe that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   

J.M.W. Turner, Venice Quay Ducal Palace, Tate Britain
J.M.W. Turner, Bridge of Sighs Ducal Palace and Custom House, Tate Britain

Schloss Rosenau

Schloss Rosenau is a former castle in Saxe-Coburg. The castle is the birthplace and childhood home of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, the future husband of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. The origins of the palace date back to medieval times but between 1808 and 1817 the castle was renovated in its current Gothic Revival style. In the 20th century, the palace was restored to the style it was when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed there.  

J.M.W. Turner, Schloss Rosenau, c.1841, Sudley House Liverpool

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