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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Castle Paintings

A View of Tantallon Castle, 1816, Alexander Nasmyth
Yesterday (the posting below) I talked about the devotees of medieval lore with the time and wherewithal to build and live in 21st century approximations of medieval castles. Today I'm going to talk about those who paint castles, and explore those works from such artists which I've found to be most eye-catching and interesting. You won't find any castles ala Walt Disney, though you will see one (below) which inspired him and his creative team. Likewise you won't see any paintings of "fantasy" castles which exist only in the imaginations of artists with the time and talent to venture upon such flights of fancy. Although such works may, in fact, be among the most beautiful, and certainly the most creative of all castle paintings, letting ones imagination run amuck suggests a certain lacking of mental discipline which makes paintings of existing castles seem dull and drab by comparison. In essence, fantasy castles steal from the paintings of existing castles certain romantic qualities which rightfully belong to those which have weathered history and the elements to remind us of past medieval times and their imagined glories. Alexander Nasmyth's A View of Tantallon Castle (above), dating from 1815, is one such example.

"Mad" King Ludwig castle and some of the painters it has inspired.
Probably the most painted castle in the world sits upon a scenic hilltop in the Black Forest area of southwest Bavaria overlooking Hohenschwangau, Germany. It's called Schloss Neuschawnstein (New Swanstone Castle), designed and built by King Ludwig II beginning in 1869 and still unfinished when he died in 1886. Today, some 1.3-million tourist visit Ludwig's real-life fantasy castle, which has inspired the fantasies of numerous writer, poets, painters, and one important creative genius not too unlike Ludwig himself--Walt Disney. The castle has appeared prominently in several movies and was the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty's Castle as well as later, similar structures in Disney parks around the world.

Turner's Kenilworth Castle, 1830, and American artist Thomas Cole's 1841 version.
Castle Coch, 2008, 
Welsh artist Gwynfor Roberts
Castles and their ruins have inspired artists for many centuries, from the Middle Ages to the present. The English with their many castles, past and present, dotting the island landscape like stepping stones have been quite fond of rendering such images of romantic piles of stone especially if they lie in ruins (as a great many of them do)as with J.M.W. Turner's Kenilworth Castle (above). Even contemporary artists find old English castles fascinating to paint, such as Gwynfor Roberts, 2008 Castle Coch (left). The sturdy fortress would never inspire a novel or a fairytale theme park, but there is, never-theless, a certain mystique about castles, whether in ruins or home to a queen, which few painters can resist.

Balmoral by Ardell Morton and Windsor Castle by David Drury of Surrey.
Lichtenstein Castle, Karl Illini
Speaking of queens, what would royalty be without one or two castles? England's Queen Eliz-abeth II has at least two. Artist Ardell Morton depicts the formal gardens of Balmoral Castle in Scotland while David Drury of Surrey provides us with a limited impression of the Queen's vast, Windsor Castle estate. However the English by no means have a monopoly on medieval castles as evidenced by Chenonseau Castle (below, left) which is sort of a castle with a chateau (almost) attached, and Gustave Courbet's painting of the French Chateau de Chillon (below, right) dates from 1874. And despite what certain tourist agencies in Germany would have you to believe, Schloss Neuschwanstein is not the only castle in Germany. In fact, Lichtenstein Castle (above, left) not far away has a longer history, one filled with more drama, romance, destruction, and rebuilding than virtually any other such structure in Germany, or any other European country.

Chenonseau Castle,
Loire Valley, France
Chateau de Chillon, 1874,
Gustave Courbet
Besides Germany, Ireland and Italy also have their share of medieval castles though in Italian painting they often are used simple as backdrops for history paintings rather than the focal point for the landscape paintings preferred by the French and especially the English. Castle with Italian Soldiers at the Court of Honor (below, left) by Ludovico Marchetti is typical of the Italian castle painting as compared to the picturesque landscape, Dunguaire Castle, Ireland (below, right), 2012, by contemporary landscape artist, Bill de Lange.

Castle with Italian Soldiers at the Court
of Honor, Ludovico Marchetti
Dunguaire Castle, Ireland,
2012, Bill de Lange
Finally, I guess I should validate to some degree my own knowledge and expertise in painting castles by displaying my one and only venture into the genre, the famed Ch√Ęteau Laurier (a hotel) in Ottawa, Canada (below). Strictly speaking it's not a castle but, as the name implies, a chateau; but insofar as my painting repertoire is concerned--"close enough." I call it Castle in the Sky. It dates from 1982, so obviously, it's been a while (like 33 years) since I've dabbled in anything approximating a castle painting. But I've always been quite fond of it. I'd be even more fond of it if someone would buy it.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Castle in the Sky, 1982, Jim Lane
I said at the beginning I'd not include any fantasy castles,
but I didn't rule out fictional castles. Here's Rita Foster's
Hogwarts Castle. If you look carefully, you can see Harry
peering out of the second window from the left in the
second turret from the right.



  1. By the way castles. I noticed an interesting one, I mean it was Windsor Castle, on the picture in "Spectre", last movie with James Bond.
    Unfortunatly I can't recognize the artist. Could you, please, help me?

  2. Thanks for writing, however, with no more to go on that what I can see in the link you sent, I wouldn't even have recognized it as Windsor Castle, much less identify the artist. Sorry...