The Joy of Museums

Exploring Museums, Art & Historic Sites

Newport Castle by J. M. W. Turner

Newport Castle by JMW Turner

Newport Castle by J. M. W. Turner

Newport Castle by J. M. W. Turner depicts a nostalgic view of Newport Castle overlooking the river with sailing vessels moored and anchored beside the large walls of the castle. The arched entrance has stakes in the water for mooring, and a figure is storing or launching a rowing boat in front of the arch. Newport Castle is a ruined castle in Newport, Wales, which was built in the 14th century, to manage and control the crossing of the River Usk. In 1402 it was sacked by a Welsh ruler who instigated a fierce and long-running but ultimately unsuccessful revolt against the English rule of Wales. Newport Castle then fell into disrepair and was taken by Oliver Cromwell’s forces during the Civil War. Its use declined further in later centuries, and in the 19th century, the buildings within the ruin were used as a tannery and later as a brewery.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, later more commonly referred to as J. M. W. Turner entered the Royal Academy of Art in 1789, aged 14, and his first watercolour was accepted for the Royal Academy summer exhibition of 1790 when Turner was 15. Turner exhibited watercolours each year at the academy while painting in the winter and travelling in the summer widely throughout Britain, mainly to Wales, where he produced a wide range of sketches for working up into watercolours. These primarily focused on architectural work, which utilised his draughting skills. During one of these trips to Wales, he painted Newport Castle in 1796 when Turner was only twenty-one.

Turner was a Romantic painter, printmaker and watercolourist, today known for his vivid colourisation, imaginative landscapes and turbulent marine paintings. As a private, eccentric and reclusive figure, Turner was controversial throughout his career. He left behind over 2,000 paintings and 19,000 drawings and sketches.

Reflections on J. M. W. Turner

  • Many early sketches by Turner were architectural studies in perspective. Does this painting fit this early period more than his later works of the imagination?

Turner Paintings to Explore

Newport Castle

  • Title:                Newport Castle
  • Artist:              J. M. W. Turner
  • Date:                1796
  • Medium:         Watercolour and graphite on paper
  • Dimensions:   H: 226 mm; W: 302 mm
  • Museum:        British Museum

Joseph Mallord William Turner

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“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” – William Shakespeare

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Photo Credit: 1) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons