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Welsh Castles As Art

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Right: portrait of J.M.W. Turner

s the Middle Ages drew to a close many of the castles of Wales were already in a state of advanced decay, due largely to their neglect and intentional destruction or "slighting" during the Civil War. Beginning primarily in the 18th century, however, these ruined monuments, long thought of simply as eyesores of a forgotten age, enjoyed something of a revival due in part to the appearance of both realistic and romantic paintings by a variety of artists. Samuel and Nathaniel Buck were chief among the realists, while men like J.M.W. Turner and Henry Gastineau were among the most accomplished "romantic" painters of the day.

The work of artists like Buck, Turner, and others, helped change public perception regarding these long forgotton relics of the Middle Ages. Rather than thinking of castles as ugly piles of ready-made quarry materials, people began to appreciate the cultural heritage these monuments represented. This new way of thinking was eventually embraced by the Victorians, one of the first groups to give voice to the idea of preserving these important pieces of Britain's past. The paintings then, can be seen as an important link in a chain of events that became the movement to save and restore Britain's historic treasures - including, of course, her castles.

Those of you who have read our article by Richard Williams on the importance of artists like Samuel and Nathaniel Buck already know that their work also helped to create an important visual record of castles as they appeared at the time, something that's proved to be a great help to modern-day historians.

Below you will find a collection of smaller or "thumbnail" photos that link to larger versions of drawings and paintings for several of the Castles of Wales. Simply click on the thumbnail to launch the full size representation. Each full size drawing in turn has a link to that castle's main page, where you'll find modern photographs along with an appropriate description and/or history of the castle. The drawings and paintings are interesting because they give us glimpses of certain castles before irreversible decay had set in (Llanvair), while others castles (Caerphilly) are shown as they existed before restoration efforts were begun, in their "natural state" of ruin, as it were. Not only are we given antiquary glimpses of the castles themselves, but also pre-modern views of the surrounding countryside, people, and, in some instances, towns and settlements. As always, we invite your comments. Special thanks go out to John Cotton for providing us with many of drawings and sketches from his extensive collection. Diolch yn fawr, John!

J.M.W. Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner, also known as J.M.W. Turner was an English painter that lived from 1775 to 1851. Turner is considered to be one of the best landscape painters in Western art. He was known for his use of color, lighting, and expressive scenes of natural landscape. Turner lived during the Romanticism movement. In this time, castles or castle ruins became widely popular for artists to use in their work. Turner painted many castles in England, Wales, and Scotland, and in 1798 he went on his first tour of Wales. During his time there he visited several Welsh castles that had become popular in the Picturesque period. The castles in Wales (and elsewhere) painted by Turner certainly contributed to idea that Britain's ancient monuments should be preserved for future generations.

Below you will find several of Turner's paintings featuring Welsh castles and landscapes. Follow this link to read a short biography of Turner (Wikipedia).

Click on each image to view a larger-sized photo (pop-up window)

Conwy Castle Kidwelly Castle Ludlow Castle
Caernarfon Castle Cligerran Castle Chepstow Castle
Pembroke Castle Flint Castle Newport Castle
Harlech Castle Criccieth Castle Ewenny Priory
Llanthony Abbey A Bridge over the Usk North Wales

 

Additional Artistic Impression of Welsh Castles

(Please click on each castle below for a larger image)

Castle art provided by John Cotton

Beaumaris Castle Dryslwyn Castle Caldicot Castle Conwy Castle
Chepstow Castle Chepstow Castle Caerphilly Castle Caerphilly Castle
Criccieth Castle Harlech Castle Castell Dinas Bran Carew Castle
Manorbier Castle Kidwelly Castle Raglan Castle Raglan Castle
Penhow Castle Cas Troggy Llansteffan Castle Laugharne Castle
Cardiff Castle Oystermouth Castle Penrice Castle Swansea Castle
Castell Coch Brecon Castle Tretower Castle Haverfordwest Castle
Tenby Castle Goodrich Castle Newport Castle Newport Castle

Essay about the Buck brothers castle drawings of the Castles of Wales


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Copyright © 2009 by Jeffrey L. Thomas