Thursday, December 06, 2007

William Turner

Bamborough Castle
505 by 705 mm.

“One of the finest watercolour-drawings in the world”
The Graphic Society, 1837

Sold yesterday at Sotheby’s London for 2,932,500 GBP (Buyer's Premium incl.)

JOSEPH MALLORD WILLIAM TURNER, R.A. (1775-1851) is Britain’s greatest watercolourist and the last few years have seen him take centre stage like never before.

Described by the Graphic Society in 1837 as “one of the finest watercolour-drawings in the world” this major work looks set to generate huge excitement in the academic and collecting worlds alike. It is expected to fetch in excess of £1.5 million. Dating from the mid 1830s, Turner’s Bamborough Castle has spent most of its life to date in the possession of a distinguished private collection and, remarkably, it has not been seen on the open market since 1872 - some 135 years. In 1872 it was sold as part of the Joseph Gillott collection in London and realised £3,309, the highest price ever achieved for a watercolour at the time. The Earl of Dudley was the purchaser on this occasion but later - in about 1890 - the picture passed into the hands of one of the great American collecting families, that of the Vanderbilts. The Vanderbilt family played a significant role in the history of the United States; they built a shipping and railroad empire during the 19th century which made them one of the wealthiest families in the world. Since entering the collection of Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt, the watercolour has passed down through successive generations of the family while the outside world has remained mystified as to its whereabouts.

Listed as untraced in Andrew Wilton’s Catalogue of Turner Watercolours published in 1979, the work has not been seen in public since 1889.Perched on an outcrop on the very edge of the North Sea at Bamborough, Northumberland, Bamborough Castle is one of England’s finest castles. In his watercolour, Turner has chosen to show the castle from its north side, the angle which clearly portrays the height and presence of the castle’s impressive Norman walls. The formidable castle is serenely depicted as the one point of safety in the midst of a charged landscape. In the foreground, a woman and girl appear to cower from the large roiling waves while a ship struggles to reach the security of the land under the great storm clouds. In the 19th Century the castle had a reputation for being one of the great places of refuge on the British coast during storms for sailors in distress. It actually had rooms within the walls that were put aside for rescued sailors as well as a marine rescue party that constantly patrolled an eight-mile stretch of the coast north and south of the castle. Turner was a great admirer of such details and he captures the castle’s preparations with a rocket launched in the distance and people gathered at the waters-edge, ready to rescue the sailors who are rowing away from their vessel that has struck the massive rocks.

Photographs: masterwatercolors.
Press release Sotheby's.

- - E. & O.E. - -


Post a Comment

<< Home