(click image to enlarge)
Devon proved to be a popular sketching ground for landscape artists during the late eighteenth century, and the picturesque qualities of such castles as that at Dartmouth held a particular appeal. Dartmouth Castle was constructed close to the church of St Petrox from 1388 to guard the estuary of the River Dart, and the towers of the two buildings together comprise a distinctive profile. However, the spire of the church that Edward Dayes included in his watercolour was removed in 1856, following the erection of a lighthouse on the other side of the promontory.
Dayes may have travelled to Devon in or before 1798, as in the August of that year he recorded in his diary that he was painting an oil of Dartmouth Castle. In addition to the present watercolour, there is a least one other by Dayes of the castle; recently in the stock of another London dealer, it presents a view from the other direction, looking out to sea. Dayes’ former pupil, Thomas Girtin, also visited Devon in the late 1790s and, among numerous watercolours, produced Kingswear Seen from Dartmouth, Devon (Yale Center for British Art).