J.M.W. TURNER R.A.
Norham Castle on the Tweed
Fred H. Fawkes, 1902
By descent until sold at Christie’s 17th November 1987, lot 187
Bath, Holbourne of Menstrie Museum, 1959, no.31
Sir Walter Armstrong, Turner, 1902, p.268;
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Works of J.M.W.Turner, 1979, no.1052
The present watercolour of Norham Castle was one of a series of six illustrations which were commissioned by Turner's Yorkshire patron, Walter Fawkes, in around 1822. This series was designed to illustrate the work of contemporary poets and it is indicative of Scott's immense popularity at the time that four of the watercolours illustrated his poems, while Byron and Thomas Moore were only represented by one each. The poem illustrated here is Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion, a historical romance which is set around the 1513 Battle of Flodden. The poem begins:
Day set on Norham's castled steep,
And Tweed's fair river, broad and deep,
And Cheviot's mountains lone:
The battled towers, the donjon keep,
The loophole grates where captives weep,
The flanking walls that round it sweep,
In yellow lustre shone.
Turner first visited Norham Castle during his tour of the north of England in 1797, when he made two sketches of the castle in the 'North of England sketchbook' (T.B. xxiv f.57 & T.B.xxvii-U). This visit led to several colour studies and two finished watercolours, one exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1798 as Norham Castle on the Tweed, Summer's Morn. A further finished watercolour of circa 1800 and now at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, shows a different view of the castle. Turner also included the subject in his Liber Studiorum in about 1806-7. He returned to his preferred frontal view of the castle in a watercolour for the Rivers of England series of engravings in circa 1824. Finally, towards the end of his career, though never completed for exhibition to the public, came the unfinished oil painting of 1845-50 in the Tate Gallery, one of a series of such oils based on compositions used in the Liber Studiorum.