Five things to know about Turner: The Visionary

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), 'A Ship against the Mewstone, at the Entrance to Plymouth Sound', c.1814. © National Gallery of Ireland.
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), 'A Ship against the Mewstone, at the Entrance to Plymouth Sound', c.1814. © National Gallery of Ireland.Credit

This January, our annual exhibition of J.M.W. Turner's watercolours will also feature work by over twenty artists who were inspired by the English painter. 

Read on to discover five things to know before you visit the exhibition.

1. Who was J.M.W. Turner?

Turner (17751851) was an English artist who is celebrated for his innovative and experimental approach to landscape painting. His evocative watercolour views capture the drama and intensity of weather effects and the ever-changing nature of light.

Writing in 1890, Henry Doyle, Director of the National Gallery of Ireland from 1869 to 1892, described Turner as "... the greatest artistic genius of the British School and the most poetic and imaginative landscape painter the world has seen."

2. The majority of the Gallery's collection of watercolours by Turner came from one generous donor.

The Gallery holds thirty-six watercolours and drawings by Turner, as well as a complete set of his Liber Studiorum prints. Thirty-one of these watercolours entered the collection in 1900, having been bequeathed by Henry Vaughan (1809–99), an English art collector and philanthropist. These works, ranging from highly finished watercolours to atmospheric sketches, give a real sense of Turner's development as an artist, and his enthusiasm for landscape.

 

"... the greatest artistic genius of the British School and the most poetic and imaginative landscape painter the world has seen." - Henry Doyle

 

3. The watercolours are only displayed in January.

Vaughan wanted his art collection to be seen and enjoyed by a wide audience, but he was also keen to follow best practice in displaying and caring for delicate works on paper. In his bequest, he stipulated that the watercolours should be displayed every year, free of charge. He also specified that they could only be displayed for the month of January, one of the darkest months of the year. In this he was influenced by the writings of art critic John Ruskin (1819–1900), who warned of the dangers of exposing watercolours to the damaging effects of sunlight.

The works arrived in Dublin in September 1900, in a custom-made wooden cabinet, and went on show in the Gallery for the first time in January 1901. In the 119 years since, the Gallery has continued to display the watercolours for the month of January. The collection remains in pristine condition and draws visitors from far and wide. For many, the annual exhibition is a winter tradition to welcome in the new year with old friends.

4. Artists from John Singer Sargent to Paul Cézanne to Evie Hone drew inspiration from Turner's experimental approach to watercolours.

Turner was hugely influential in his lifetime, and inspired generations of artists. This year, the curators have selected works by over twenty such artists to hang alongside Turner's watercolours. These works show the artist's influence, but also the versatility and continued evolution of the watercolour technique.

5. This exhibition includes works on display for the very first time in the Gallery.

Turner: The Visionary is an opportunity for visitors to see new acquisitions including a dramatic mountain scene by Francis Danby, an early charcoal drawing by Paul Henry, and a vibrant largescale work by Basil Blackshaw.

 

Discover lots more about Turner and his influence on generations of artists at our exhibition Turner: The Visionary. On view 1–31 January 2020 in the Print Gallery. Admission free.

This exhibition is kindly sponsored by Sarasin & Partners.

Sarasin and Partners

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