View of Warwick Castle from a Distance
Fielding’s "view" of the castle occurs at sunset, and is taken from the banks of a river flowing in the lower register of the painting. A large tree seems to grasp the right riverbank with its visible roots; this bank of the river is relatively high terrain, and drops steeply to the water in a sort of crest. On the opposite bank, two men pull up a fishing boat to the shore; a third man looks on from the distance, as if he has just emerged from the tent behind him. In the middle ground we can just see a wide field, accented with trees. The most prominent feature, which takes up only a small portion of the field in the center, is a stone-colored structure with a comparatively large, monolithic tower. A small building sits to the immediate left. A range of low-rising mountains can be seen in the background.
Copyright 2009, Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Height (in centimeters):
Width (in centimeters):
ProvenanceGift of Thompson Webb to Chazen Museum
Marks DescriptionInscription, lower left corner of painting, in script: Copley Fielding, 1816
Associated PlacesWarwick Castle
Warwick Castle was built in 1068 under the orders of William the Conqueror. It was first granted to Henry de Newburgh, Warwick’s first Norman Earl. Considerable construction on the exterior occurred under Thomas Beauchamp in 1331 and Richard, Duke of Glouchester (the future Richard III) after 1471 (Pettifer 261).
Associated TextsThe following figures are found in Charles Knight's Old England: A Pictorial Museum of Regal, Ecclesiastical, Municipal, Baronial, and Popular Antiquities (London, 185-):
Fig 415. Entrance to Warwick Castle
Fig 416. Warwick Castle; Guy’s Tower
Fig 417. Warwick Castle, from the Island
Fig 419. Warwick Castle
SubjectWarwick Castle and its Guy Tower were prominent structures in England's national and tourist culture. In this image, Fielding's rendering of the site reflects these sentiments.
SignificanceLouis Hawes notes that Romantic era ruins are often situated in the middle ground of paintings (“Constable's Hadleigh Castle 462). Although Warwick Castle is not a ruin, Fielding’s composition follows this trend, and additionally places the castle in the center of the lower register. In George Sidney Shepherd’s Dover Castle from a Market Stall on Castle Street (1830-1835), Dover Castle similarly takes a central position, but it is also pushed to the background. In Gilpin’s guidebooks, the votive chapel on the Tamer River (Observations on the Western Parts of England, Plate 12) and the ruins of Castle Abergavenny (Observations on the River Wye, Plate 12) are both situated at the center of the image in the middle ground.
In his essay On Picturesque Beauty, William Gilpin advocated re-arranging the elements or “ingredients” observed in nature to produce harmonious scenes (see Gilpin's On Picturesque Beauty, 8). Fielding appears to have reorganized several of the elements in his scene in two ways. First, the mountain ranges behind Warwick Castle were probably not visible from the painting’s purported position on the River Avon. Gilpin notes that Warwick Castle is situated on a flat plain, and topographical maps show that the closest mountain range is more than fifty miles away in Wales (Observations on the Western Parts of England 36). Second, Warwick Castle is depicted with only two of its five towers. Fielding does the same in a later piece, Scene on the Coast, Merionethshire, exaggerating the natural height of the mountain range and adding a ruin, Dolbadern Castle, which is in fact located several miles inland (Hawes, Presences of Nature 124).
Excerpts from eighteenth-century travel literature and Romantic notions of national unity offer further explanation for this compositional arrangement. One structure consistently mentioned in descriptions of Warwick Castle is Guy Tower: it is mentioned by an eighteenth century tourist, William Bray (Mavor 218-19); by William Gilpin (Observations on the Western Parts of England 1.39-40); and by Charles Knight in his publication on the architectural and historical patrimony of England (Old England 103). Guy, the eponymous English hero of Warwick, saved Winchester from a Danish invasion in the late tenth century, and the tower contains his relics (Mavor 218). The legend of Guy remained prevalent in France and England until the eighteenth century, and indicates his status as a national hero (“Guy of Warwick”). The prominent monolith in Fielding’s composition may be Guy’s Tower. Malcolm Andrews’s work on the picturesque concludes that, following the rise of domestic tourism in the Romantic period, the natural landscapes of Britain and the medieval structures associated with them contributed to a growing sense of nation pride. Anne Janowitz observes a similar phenomenon in Romantic poetry (England’s Ruins). In this light, Fielding’s creative restructuring of the Warwickshire landscape in order to highlight Warwick Castle and its famous tower may be interpreted as a result of the Romantic tendency to correlate historic monuments with nationalistic sentiment.
Bibliography"Guy Of Warwick." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 15 May 2009.
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---. Observations on the River Wye, and Several Parts of South Wales, &c.: Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty; Made in the Summer of the Year 1770. 3rd ed. London, 1800. Print.
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Long TitleView of Warwick Castle from a Distance