The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Scarborough Castle: Boys Crab Fishing
  • Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851)
  • Scarborough Castle: Boys Crab Fishing
  • England
  • 1809
  • Painting
  • Watercolour with gum varnish on paper
  • Image size: 27.9 x 39.8 cm
  • Signature: 'JMW Turner RA / 1809'
  • P654
  • Not on display
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • This picture is one of four watercolours by J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) in the Wallace Collection – the only works by the British master in the collection. All four watercolours are landscape views of Yorkshire, painted in the 1810s. The pictures thus belong to a period of British art in which watercolour emerged as a more respected and exhibited medium – tellingly, the Society for Painters of Watercolour had been founded in 1804. Turner had exhibited his first watercolour at the Royal Academy in 1790. He went on to produce nearly 1600 watercolours over the course of his career, an aspect of his work which is particularly celebrated.

    Turner had first visited the Yorkshire in 1797 and returned repeatedly throughout his career. A particular connection to Yorkshire was the collector Walter Fawkes, who lived at Farnley Hall near Otley and became an important friend and patron of Turner’s in the 1810s and 20s. From 1808, Farnley Hall became a regular retreat for the artist, particularly in the summer months. This picture, together with the other Turner watercolours in the collection, was not painted for Fawkes, however, but for his brother-in-law Sir William Pilkington of Chevet Hall (near Wakefield), who was also a regular visitor to the house.

    The present picture shows a view of Scarborough Castle, looking across the bay. In the foreground, boys fish for crabs. Turner first drew this view in 1801 and continued to develop the composition over the following decade, producing several different versions. One finished version was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1811. This was once believed to be the Wallace Collection picture, but this is no longer thought to be the case.

    The picture was bought by the 4th Marquess of Hertford from Elhanan Bicknell, an important patron and collector of British art and a contemporary of Turner’s. The 4th Marquess bought about a third of his collection when it was sold at Christies in 1863. In the context of his collection as a whole, however, the 4th Marquess took only a limited interest in nineteenth-century British art.