This equisite piece features the castle in the very far distance, a top a hill. In the rest of the scene we find a winding landscape scene, rocky in appearance, which slowly leads up to the main focal point of the composition. The skies are bright and adorned with some beautiful, non-threatening clouds which hover just above the castle itself. Turner carefully blends tones of purple, blue and white in order to create a smooth finish to the sky which then sends light down onto the exposed parts of the hill below. Some features to the right, perhaps a large rockface, creates an opposing area of dark shadow within the centre of the scene. We have included a larger image of the painting below which should help you to understand and appreciate more of the detail added by the artist.
Turner was an artist who loved travelling around the UK in search of new inspirations for his art and would tend to head for the more beautiful countryside locations, the best harbours, and also he took on a number of castles within his career. The location found here actually provided two of those three, with Dolbadarn Castle being set in Llanberis, in North Wales. The larger region is known as Snowdonia and is considered to be amongst the most picturesque areas of all of the UK. It is unsurprising that the artist would venture here as, although it would be logistically difficult to get here, even back then it would have been a famous tourist spot that would have been mentioned and lauded within domestic travel literature.
The artist visited Wales on many occasions, slowly becoming more ambitious with his visits, making them longer each time and covering more ground as he started to learn more about this region and, indeed, start to love it. In the year of 1798, when this painting was created, he actually travelled through Ddyfryn Wysg, Ceredigion, Aberystwyth, Gwynedd and Llangollen as part of an extended stay in the principality. He actually first visited Wales six years earlier and also returned in 1794 too. The Tate Britain own a number of sketchbooks that remain from his visit, where he would have produced large numbers of drawings to varying levels of detail that would help him to create paintings at a later date. He may also work on watercolours that were easier to produce whilst outdoors.
This is one of the finest castle depictions from Turner and actually allows the landscape to take centre stage in this piece, with the castle sat at the back. He constantly features this historic type of building within his work, travelling many miles to see some of the best castles in the country and we have included some of the others below for your interest.
Famous Castle Paintings by JMW Turner