Joseph Mallord William Turner R.A. (British, 1775-1851)
The Gateway, Rochester pencil and blue and grey wash 20 x 26 cm. (8 x 10 1/4 in.)
PROVENANCE: Christie's, British Drawings and Watercolours,, 14th July 1992, lot 23.
Ian Warell has dated the present watercolour to circa 1793-4. Two watercolours of Rochester dated circa 1793 and 1795 are included in A. Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, 1979, nos. 87 and 129. The second of these is in the collection of Manchester City Art Gallery.
The construction of Rochester Castle was started in 1087 by Gandulf, Bishop of Rochester. The stone keep, the largest Norman keep in the country, was built by William de Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom Henry I granted custody of the castle in 1127. The present work shows the gateway to the huge square keep built from Kentish ragstone.
Rochester was a favourite subject of Turner's. He visited the city after early August 1793. Turner's first biographer Walter Thornbury relates that Turner painted a view of Rochester Castle in 1793 as his first painting in oil. The tightness and neatness of the watercolour technique of the present picture is similar to that of Edward Dayes (1763-1804), whose style strongly influenced the young Turner.