John Webber and William Day – Views of Castleton

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery have bought two watercolours of Castleton.

The watercolours were painted in 1789 by John Webber and William Day while on a tour of Derbyshire.

John Webber (1751 – 1793) was the official artist for Captain Cook’s third voyage – the voyage in which Cook was killed  in Hawaii. He had also been on various tours around the Continent, Wales and the River Wye, but what is unusual about his Derbyshire trip was that he brought along his friend William Day.


 William Day (1764 – 1807) was a geologist and self-taught artist who showed work regularly at the Royal Academy as an ‘Honorary Exhibitor’ between 1783 and1801. We don’t know much about their friendship but we do know that they often drew the same sights but from slightly different angles and perspectives. Their views of Castleton show Peveril Castle with the village in the foreground.

Castleton would have attracted Day as the village was well known for its important geological specimens. Mawe writing in the preface for his ‘Minerology of Derbyshire’ described Castelton as having ‘such a variety of strata, mines and minerals occur as perhaps no other situation in the kingdom can boast’.

Webber’s watercolour of nearby Oden Mine and Mam Tor are in the collection at the Whitworth Art Gallery.

Webber and Day’s paintings are in museum collections across the world. To have the pair however is very unusual and the only other pair in the public domain (apart from ours) are in the Yale Centre for British Art.

Alongside the HLF ‘Collecting Cultures’ grant these two watercolours were bought with the kind assistance from the Art Fund, V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund and the Beecroft Foundation. Thank you!

Much of our information about Webber and Day’s Derbyshire tour comes from the ‘Captain Cook’s Painter: John Webber’, catalogue from the 1996 exhibition at the Kunst Museum Bern and the Whitworth Art Gallery. We currently don’t have a copy of this but are trying to get our hands on one. Let us know if you can help!


One Response to John Webber and William Day – Views of Castleton

  1. Pingback: William Day – View at Cromford, Derbyshire, taken from the Bridge « Enlightenment!

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