Turner watercolours join 1698 drawings of Ireland for 50th anniversary of Francis Place acquisition

An ink and watercolour drawing of the view towards Dublin, from the Phoenix park, in the late seventeenth century.
Francis Place (1647-1728), Dublin from the Phoenix Park, 1698. Photo © National Gallery of Ireland.Credit

On 1 January 2022, the annual exhibition of watercolours by J.M.W. Turner opens onsite and online at the National Gallery of Ireland. Turner & Place: Landscapes in Light and Detail was cancelled in 2021 when the Gallery closed, due to Covid-19, following government advice. Visitors can enjoy the Gallery’s exquisite collection of 31 light-filled watercolours by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), alongside a group of 19 rare Irish topographical drawings by Francis Place (1647–1728), who visited Ireland in 1698. The year 2022 is the 50th anniversary of the Gallery’s acquisition of Place’s works – on display for the first time since 1972 – which show early views of cities such as Dublin, Drogheda, Kilkenny and Waterford. A virtual exhibition will be available online for visitors who would like to explore the show from home. 

Niamh MacNally, curator of the exhibition, commented: ‘’The jewel-like colours and experimental effects in Turner’s luminous watercolours are captivating, while the precise detailing in Place’s prospects, encourages close inspection, with the aim of identifying what has changed, or indeed stayed the same, over time. Turner’s atmospheric watercolours can envelop the viewer, whereas Place’s carefully observed landscape studies contribute significantly to the topographical history of the cities and towns he depicted in the final years of the seventeenth century.’’

In 1900, the National Gallery of Ireland received a bequest of 31 watercolours and drawings by J.M.W. Turner from the English collector Henry Vaughan (1809–99). Vaughan stipulated in his will that the watercolours be exhibited every year, free of charge, for the month of January, when the light is at its weakest. Since 1901, the Gallery has displayed the watercolours for the month of January, thereby upholding the conditions of his bequest. January 2022 marks 121 years since the Turner watercolours were first exhibited at the Gallery. 

Place’s views are the earliest known depictions of Drogheda, Dublin, Kilkenny, and Waterford within the national collection. This fine collection of early drawings, offering a glimpse of late seventeenth-century Ireland, was purchased exactly 50 years ago through the Gallery’s Shaw Fund. The January 2022 display provides the Gallery with an opportunity to highlight these two important collections of works on paper, both of which came into the Gallery by way of generous benefaction.  It is the first time since 1972 that the rare Place drawings will be displayed to the public as a group. 

Turner & Place: Landscapes in Light and Detail is on view 1-31 January 2022. The exhibition showcases the work of two prominent English artists, working centuries apart, who viewed the landscape at first hand, albeit with radically different results. The exhibition also highlights the importance of two key benefactors (Vaughan and Shaw), both of whom made lasting contributions to the Gallery. 

A programme of online learning events to complement the exhibition will include a free curator’s talk, an Irish language conversation event, a talk by Dr Helen Pierce, art historian on the work of Francis Place, and a series of online painting classes with artist Niall Naessens.

Find out more on the Gallery's website.

Exhibition listing:

Turner & Place: Landscapes in Light and Detail
Opens: 1 January 2022 
Closes: 31 January 2022
Print Gallery, National Gallery of Ireland | Free admission 
Curator: Niamh MacNally

Learning Programme

(Advance booking required)

  • Tuesday 11 January, 1.15-2pm: free online talk – Curator’s Introduction to Turner & Place. 
  • Tuesday 13 January, 6.30-7.30pm: online talk with Dr Helen Pierce, price €5 – Francis Place: Topographical Sketches of Ireland and Scotland. 
  • Tuesday 18 January, 1.15-2pm: free online talk – Profit and pleasure in the lives of Gainsborough and Turner.  
  • Thursday 27 January, 1-1.45pm: free online Irish language conversation event – Ciorcal Comhrá – Saothair Ealaíne Le Turner agus Place.  
  • Saturdays 15, 22 and 29 January, 11am-12noon: three online painting classes with artist Niall Naessens can be booked individually, price €15, or as a 3-class bundle ticket, price €35. 
    • Saturday 15 January, 11am-12noon: Drawing Space and Observing the Sublime.
    • Saturday 22 January, 11am-12noon: Experimenting with Colour and Light.
    • Saturday 29 January, 11am-12noon: Describing a Landscape.

About the National Gallery of Ireland:

The National Gallery of Ireland is one of the country’s most popular visitor attractions housing the nation’s collection of European and Irish art from about 1300 to the present day, and an extensive Library & Archive. Entry to the collection is free for all to enjoy, learn and be inspired.

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