British 19th C, except portraits, Scotland: Artists and Subjects, Yorkshire, The Humber and North East England: Artists and Subjects 17 Could ‘Bamburgh Castle’ have been painted by John Francis Williams (1785–1846)?

Bamburgh Castle
Topic: Artist

J. F. Williams RSA exhibited a painting of this subject as no. 44 at the Liverpool Academy in 1830. He was one of the founder Academicians in 1826 and painted many coastal castles. Could anyone familiar with early nineteenth-century Scottish landscape painting tell us whether this is compatible with his style?

The collection comments: ‘[We] had a good look at the painting with a torch, but couldn’t see any signature. The lower part of the painting, where one would expect it to be, is very dark indeed and although the torch shows up some details that are otherwise hidden, there’s nothing that could be interpreted as a name.’

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Martin Hopkinson,

But is J Williams the artist who signed that painting really J F Williams RSA?

Jacob Simon,

Martin proposed this discussion more than 2 years ago. It fizzled out after 2 days. I wonder if Martin or others think it worth continuing?

Martin Hopkinson,

He was a RSA, of which he was Treasurer 1832-46 and died in Glasgow. So may be Helen Smailes will know his work , but what I can see under his name in sale do not look at all like this.

This view is definitely of Bamburgh Castle, though taken from the landward side (the south-west) rather than the seaward side more usually chosen by artists for its dramatic possibilities:

Bamburgh Castle is on the coast of Northumberland and perhaps the painter was local to north-east England. In any case I suggest that the discussion should also be under Yorkshire, The Humber and North East England: Artists and Subjects.

Marcie Doran,

The watercolour by William Turner of Oxford (1789–1862) at the link below is very similar to this work. That website doesn't permit use of its images but I made a composite for my own use and only the cows and the sky are different. My guess is that this is Turner’s work, too.


Here is a link to his works on Art UK:


Is information about the donor available? Is the date of acquisition known?

Wikipedia states that "in 1898, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford held a retrospective exhibition of his work. Some of his paintings are still on permanent display at the museum."

Perhaps the former owner was William George Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong (1810 – 1900), who purchased Bamburgh Castle in 1894. Oxford was his alma mater. Lord Armstrong reportedly had an extensive art collection at Cragside.

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Marcie Doran,

The link between Lincoln College and Bamburgh Castle is likely Lord Crewe’s Charity.

“Lord Crewe was Bishop of Durham from 1675 to 1721, having previously been Rector (Principal) of Lincoln College Oxford and Bishop of Oxford. Since his death in 1721, his trustees have implemented the terms of his will to support various named charities, necessitous clergy in the current Church of England dioceses of Durham and Newcastle, charitable purposes at Lincoln College Oxford, and some further charitable activities in parishes where the charity has the right to nominate the incumbent, the duty to repair chancels, or where it owns land.”

Osmund Bullock,

"... only the cows and the sky are different." Well, although the overall view is almost identical, I see plenty of other differences in the detail, even at this low resolution; and even if I didn't, the handling of sunlight on clouds in the two works is so unlike (see attached) that I can't agree the two works are "very similar" in terms of possible authorship. In any case, trying to compare a watercolour with an oil and draw useful conclusions is fraught with difficulties.

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The Assistant to the Archivist has replied to my enquiry: 'We think it probably came into the College's possession upon the death of John Radford in 1851 - he bequeathed "all my paintings and views of Bamboro Castle" to the College in his will. I'm not sure where the artist attribution came from and we don't have any documents from Dr Radford about where he acquired it.'

Marcie Doran,

Could this work be ‘Sun-rise view of Bambro’ castle’ that W. Westall, A., showed at the RA in 1813 (251)?

My composite is based on the following work by William Westall (1781–1850):

Note the similar layout of the elements, the sky, the small figures, and the placement of the white cow in each work.

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Martin Hopkinson,

a different view of the castle by Westall was engraved in a print in the British Museum 1917,1208.3373, a steel engraving by Edward Finden and associates published in 1828 - a different view

We should be looking at Ernst Andres's 2002 Steel engraved views of towns and cities - copy in the British Library

Osmund Bullock,

Our painting is a view of the castle looking almost due north across what is now the car park; east is to the right. The sun is indeed low in the sky, but its light is coming from the left, not the right. So it cannot be Westall's 'Sun-rise view'. See attached.

Marcie Doran,

Thank you for researching that suggestion, Osmund.

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