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    Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) Great Yarmount Harbour, Norfolk c1840 © National Gallery of Ireland

    Nearly every year in Ireland the low light of January is offset by the shining collection of Turner watercolours at the National Gallery. In 2024 the annual Vaughan Bequest display of Turners is displayed alongside a collection of 18th and 19th century coastal scenes by Irish and British artists who drew inspiration from the rugged coastlines and busy fishing communities they encountered. Turner and Coastal Scenes – on view until January 31 – reveals not only his passion for the sea and shipping, but an extraordinary understanding of the ever changing pattern including both violence and serenity of the sea. No less than 15 watercolours from the gallery’s collection – some not seen in public for years – are included.  Work by artists John Thomas Serres, Thomas Walmsley, Edward Dayes,  John Callow, David Cox the Elder, James Howard Burgess, Andrew Nicholl, Henry Newton, George Petrie and Frederic William Burton is being shown together for the first time.  Well known locations like the Baily Lighthouse in Howth, Dun Aonghasa on the Aran Island and the Giant’s Causeway in Co. Antrim are featured. A highlight of the yearly cultural calendar the Turner watercolours have been shown annually in January since 1901, except for 2021.  They were bequeathed by the wealthy English collector Henry Vaughan in 1900. He stipulated that the delicate works be shown only in January when the natural light is at its lowest.

     Johannes Vermeer – Girl with the Red Hat c1669. Andrew W. Mellon Collection. Courtesy National Gallery of Art,

    There will be something spectacular to look forward to at the Gallery when the days start to lengthen as well. Vermeer’s Girl with the Red Hat on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington will be a highlight of the upcoming show titled Turning Heads: Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer at the gallery from February 24 to May 24.It features work from Dutch and Flemish artists of the 16th and 17th centuries who were exponents of the tronie – an intriguing painting of a head that depicts an exaggerated facial expression.  Among the works to be shown are Study of an Old Woman by Rubens, The Laughing Man by Rembrandt and The Man with the Golden Helment c1650 from the circle of Rembrandt.The groundbreaking show will present an opportunity for a powerful face to face encounter with people from 300-400 years ago through an extraordinary collection of Old Master paintings.  Each work unfolds its own story.  The exhibition is a collaboration between The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp and the National Gallery.An unprecedented opportunity to see Mistress and Maid by Vermeer from the Frick arises at the gallery later in the year.  This painting has rarely travelled outside New York, where the period home of the Frick Collection is under renovation.  It will be displayed alongside the National Gallery’s Woman Writing a Letter with her Maid.  Vermeer Visits runs from May 11 to August 18.

    Johannes Vermeer, 1632–1675 – Mistress and Maid, ca. 1666?67.  The Frick Collection, New York, photo: Joseph Coscia Jr.

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