© the copyright holder. Photo credit: Laing Art Gallery
Does anyone recognise this watch tower? The artist, John Alfred Arnesby Brown is known for his paintings of Norfolk, but does it have a connection with North East England, as the Laing purchased it from the artist in 1923?
The painting was exhibited and favourably reviewed, along with three of his other works, at the 1923 Royal Academy exhibition. It sold for £525.
Fairly certain it's on Inner Farne island, and also known as Prior Castell's Tower. Can't post a modern exact comparison but attched is a credible shot. Obviously of interest to the Laing if I'm right.
I can't think of any other coastal pele/watch towers in Northumbria.
Modern photographs of Prior Castell's Tower can be found here:
Quite apart from the architecture of the tower being different in this painting to images of it online, the absence of St. Cuthbert's chapel, or its other adjacent outbuilding, would suggest that this painting is not of Prior Castell's Tower. Also, artistic license aside, the presence of the curving sandy beach in the forefront of the painting does not correspond with the island's topography:
If a local view was acquired one would expect some record of it. Martin, can you confirm that the Laing has reviewed the rear of the painting and all of its purchase documentation?
If this is faithful to the original view, then there is a second building on the right edge and what seems to be a very distant one across the water. Several individual figures, some dressed in white, are wandering near the tower - a suggestion of visitors? If so the place should be well known today.
Reviewing the artist's other works on Art UK, landscape titles fall into three categories: specific views such as "Blythsburgh (Beccles across the Marshes)", anonymous scenes such as "Landscape with church" and generics such as "Spring".
Our work falls in the second of these. It would not surprise me therefore if the scene were a composite.
The attached image should allow for a closer examination of this painting's details.
Perhaps it is just a trick of the light, or brush marks, but there appears to be a word written lightly, bottom centre. (See highlighted attachment).
Is this a Norman structure?
To help here are some details from the hi-res image. Please find attached the area you requested Kieran, the artist's signature bottom right in case anyone wondered about the lettering there, and a close up of the tower, white posts and the other building, I hope this helps.
The reverse of the picture and the painting record have been checked, but there is nothing to say where the location is.
How about the Mucklaberry Tower in Shetland? If it's not Prior Castell's tower that is.
I’m sorry to pass on the very sad news of the recent death of John Millard, who led our North East England group.
Richard Green will monitor the region's discussions from now on, within a new group called ‘Yorkshire, The Humber and North East England: Artists and Subjects’.