Thanks to funding secured from the V&A, Beecroft Bequest, Brecknock Arts Trust and MonLife museums’ acquisitions fund, a ‘local treasure’ – a painting by JMW Turner - will be coming home to Monmouthshire soon. Turner’s watercolour of Chepstow Castle is one of only two works by the artist known to capture the iconic view of the castle by the River Wye.

 MonLife Heritage have acquired the beautiful landscape which will be on display in the summer at Chepstow Museum and it is hoped that as many local people as possible will visit to view the painting and be inspired by it.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) is acknowledged as arguably the greatest of the British ‘Romantic’ artists, and is often referred to as “the painter of light” due to his ability to evocatively capture vibrant landscapes and seascapes on paper and on canvas.

The history of the painting

The previously recorded but untraced watercolour painting by JMW Turner, has been kept in a private family collection since before 1956, resurfaced recently and was offered at Cheffins in Cambridge as part of its fine art sale on March 22.

The picture, shows a view of Chepstow Castle and was painted by Turner when he was only 19 years old, and it is the first time in nearly 100 years that it has been offered to the open market.

There are only two known paintings of this view of Chepstow Castle and bridge in Monmouthshire by Turner known to be in existence, this, and one other, which is currently held in the Courtauld Institute. The painting depicts Chepstow Castle overlooking the River Wye, showing the view from downstream of a wooden bridge, complete with a boat in the foreground and the castle alongside a series of cottages.  

The version held at the Courtauld Institute is undated, less finished and smaller than the painting to be offered by Cheffins, and differences can be observed in the arrangement of the boats, the detailing of the town and castle and the position of the figures on the bridge.

Signed ‘Turner’ and dated 1794, the attribution was confirmed by Andrew Wilton, the leading scholar on Turner and who was the first Curator of the Clore Gallery for the Turner Collection at the Tate Britain.

Ahead of the sale Patricia Cross, Associate at Cheffins, said: “This painting is an important record of Turner’s early style which was developing at a fast pace at this time of his life. His use of colour and perspective and extraordinary attention to detail are characteristic of his work in the early 1790s and can be seen in various other watercolours of the period. Given its large scale and highly finished composition, it  is likely that this would have been painted as a presentation piece for an important patron, such as Dr Thomas Monro, in whose collection this watercolour was found in 1833. The present view would have been created during one of Turner’s first tours throughout the England and Wales as a professional artist. Turner is considered one of the greatest landscape painters in the world, and this is an important collectors’ piece, offering a glimpse into his painting style in the early part of his career.”

The painting has been kept in a London-based private collection, and is offered in immaculate condition. It has an estimate of £30,000 - £50,000, eventually selling for £75,000


 The Chepstow Castle watercolour was painted in 1794 when Turner was just 19 years old and it is thought to have been created as a result of the artist’s first tour of South Wales. Once on display at Chepstow Museum, the painting will help tell the story of not only 18th century Monmouthshire, but of Turner’s love of the county.

 Cllr. Sara Burch, Cabinet Member for Inclusive & Active Communities, said: “It’s fantastic news that the painting will be coming back to Chepstow where Turner painted it at the age of 19. It will become the jewel of Monmouthshire’s collection of paintings and drawings inspired by the Wye Valley. I hope today’s young artists will see it and be inspired. We had thought purchase of a significant artwork like this was out of reach, until generous funders stepped in to save the painting for the nation and for Monmouthshire.”

The painting was offered for sale by Cheffins in Cambridge, reaching £75,000 - well over the estimated price of £30-50,000

 Turner’s painting will be display in Chepstow in the summer, in the meantime to find out about Monmouthshire museums and their current exhibitions visit