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    Saturday, January 6th, 2024
    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.


    Monday, January 1st, 2024
    Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) – A Shipwreck off Hastings. © National Gallery of Ireland

    The National Gallery of Ireland’s popular annual exhibition of watercolours by J.M.W. Turner opens today and continues for the month of January. This year, Turner’s work will feature alongside coastal scenes by an array of British and Irish artists from the collection. Turner and Coastal Scenes reflects his lifelong passion for the sea. The artist revelled in capturing its ever-changing character, along with the activities of those whose livelihoods depended on it. His watercolours in the Vaughan Bequest at the National Gallery of Ireland range from tranquil beach and harbour scenes to depictions of storm-tossed seas and shipwrecks. Coastal locations include Dover, Hastings, Folkestone, Clovelly, Plymouth, as well as Ostend and Venice, famously known as the jewel of the Adriatic.

    This year, the Gallery’s annual display of the Vaughan Bequest of Turner watercolours is complemented by a selection of eighteenth and nineteenth-century coastal scenes by British and Irish artists. Like Turner, these artists drew inspiration from the rugged coastlines and bustling fishing communities that they encountered at first hand. Well-known locations including the Baily Lighthouse in Howth, Dún Aonghasa on the Aran Islands, and the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim are depicted. Significant artists who feature in this display include David Cox the Elder, Andrew Nicholl, George Petrie and Frederic William Burton.


    Wednesday, June 7th, 2023
    Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A. (1775-1851) – Sunrise over the Sea, perhaps at Margate courtesy CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2023. UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £1,032,200.

    Capturing the enigmatic fleeting beauty of changing sunlight celebrated across cultures and across time, Sunrise over the Sea, perhaps at Margate by J M W Turner is a highlight at Christie’s  Old Master and British Drawings and Watercolours sale on July 4 during Classic Week in London. Harriet Drummond, International Head of British Drawings and Watercolours, commented: “This remarkably well-preserved and ravishingly beautiful drawing is an exceptional example of the boldly expressive watercolours Turner made in his final years. Previously dated to the later 1820s, it is has now been associated by Ian Warrell for the first time with sheets of one of the ‘roll’ sketchbooks that were broken up and dispersed after Turner’s death. Turner deployed these light-weight books on many of his later travels in the early 1840s, notably in Germany, Venice and the celebrated final tours of Switzerland. In this instance, the dismantled book can be placed in the sequence of sketchbooks used during the summer of 1845 overlapping in its focus on cloudy skies over the sea with the contents of the ‘Channel’ sketchbook at the Yale Center for British Art, and several of those in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain.”

    The watercolour is estimated at £600,000-800,000.

    Turner has posthumously often been celebrated for his depictions of sunset light, but in recent years many of the works John Ruskin and others had identified as that time of day have been retitled as sunrises. Turner confessed to a young admirer at the time: ‘when you are all fast asleep, I am watching effects of sunrise far more beautiful [than the sunsets people associated with him]; and then, you see, the light does not fail, and you can paint them’ (M. Lloyd, ‘A Memoir of J.M.W. Turner, R.A.’, (1880), Turner Studies, summer 1984, vol. 4, no. 1, p. 22). It was this kind of dedicated approach to the observation of changing light that anticipates Claude Monet’s method of painting successive canvases, working on each within a limited time frame during the course of a day; both Turner and Monet were especially drawn to the special character of dawn and twilight.


    Sunday, January 1st, 2023
    JMW Turner (1775-1851)  The Golden Bough, exhibited 1834.  Courtesy Tate Gallery

    THE 121st annual Turner exhibition which opens on New Year’s Day today at the National Gallery of Ireland wlll be the most exciting yet. It coincides with the magnificent exhibition Turner: The Sun is God which continues at the Gallery until February 6. Right now the National Gallery of Ireland is offering a visual feast of wonderful work by a rare master who was far ahead of his time.  Turner’s art is as contemporary today as when it was painted a couple of centuries ago. An Impressionist 50 years before Impressionism, an abstract artist when abstraction was unknown, Turner as artist and innovator was far ahead of his time. It is always instructive when assessing any art to refer back to the greatest artists by visiting galleries.  They set the benchmark. They did it right. Their work shouts it out when lesser artworks fall short.  Brutal and frustrating as this may be for artists, it is always an important learning oppprtunity. Ask Jackson Pollock, the great mid 20th century American artist who once said memorably: “F… Picasso”.

    JMW Turner, The Schollenen Gorge from the Devil’s Bridge Pass of St. Gotthard 1802.  Courtesy Tate Gallery

    In the world of art everyone, including collectors, needs to keep their eye in. Don’t miss these shows. An appreciation of the fact that great art isn’t easy is an important first step. The Sun is God at the National Gallery is a show to be savoured slowly.  Turner draws the viewer in as he reveals his fascination with the forces of nature, the sun, moon and clouds. This glowing show traces the development of his compositions from early sketches and exploratory ‘colour beginnings’ to finished watercolours, oil paintings and published prints. It covers a range of themes including memory, imagination, nature, light and atmosphere. This unique opportunity to see 89 artworks from the Tate Collection in London never before displayed in Ireland coincides this January with the annual display of Turner watercolours bequeathed in 1900 by the English collector Henry Vaughan.  This year’s selection will include the 31 Vaughan Bequest works, and five additional Turner watercolours, alongside eight of the artist’s much-loved Liber Studiorum prints of landscape and seascape compositions recreated as prints.There is much to celebrate. Turner has always been popular in Ireland. The annual watercolour show had to be cancelled two years ago for the first time in 120 years because of the pandemic.  The show last January was the 120th instead of the 121st.  This year, uniquely, we will get to see Turner twice.


    Sunday, October 16th, 2022
    JMW Turner – The Canale della Guidecca, Venice, 1840

    Visual treats for art lovers in Ireland right now include Turner playing with light at the National Gallery and Corban Walker playing with perspective at the Crawford.

    Turner: The Sun is God offers visitors a rare opportunity to see 89 artworks from the Tate Collection in London never before displayed in Ireland. Oil paintings filled with dramatic contrasts of light and dark and highly impressionistic weather effects abound in a must see exhibition which runs in Dublin until February 6. These marvellous paintings were created half a century before Impressionism. The show covers a range of themes including memory, imagination, nature, light and atmosphere. 

    A wonderful collection of Turner watercolours are displayed by the gallery every year in January.

    As far as I can see is the title of a show by the internationally acclaimed Irish artist Corban Walker at the Crawford Gallery in Cork until January 18.   The artist, who is around four feet tall, is known for installations, sculpture and drawing that relate to perceptions of scale and architectural constructs.  At the Crawford his distinctive  sculptural and installation works  in the Gibson and Long Room galleries  disorientate and reorientate perceptions. Part of the Pace Gallery stable in New York he has just joined Solomon Fine Art artists in his native Dublin. 

    Corban Walker – Grid Stack 1


    Thursday, October 6th, 2022

    Turner in all his glory will be available to view at the National Gallery of Ireland from October 8 to February 6, 2023. Turner: The Sun is God offers visitors a rare opportunity to see 89 artworks by the English artist from the Tate Collection in London.  This once in a lifetime exhibition marks the first time these works have been displayed in Ireland where Turner is widely celebrated. The exhibition covers a range of themes including memory, imagination, nature, light and atmosphere. Visitors will be presented with a range of superb oil paintings filled with dramatic contrasts of light and dark and various weather effects.

    Every year in January the National Gallery in Dublin displays a wonderful collection of watercolours by Turner bequeathed by the English collector Henry Vaughan in 1900.  This show is a popular annual fixture and a huge crowd puller.



    Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

    The annual exhibition of Turner watercolours opens today at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. This year, watercolours by J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) will be complemented by the works of a broad range of over 20 artists that were inspired by him. All works in this year’s display, by artists such as William Leech, Evie Hone, Paul Cézanne and John Singer Sargent, are from the Gallery’s collection, with many watercolours having not been seen in years. Some recent acquisitions by the artists Basil Blackshaw and Kyffin Williams will also be included. In 1900, the Gallery received a bequest of 31 watercolours and drawings by Turner from the English collector Henry Vaughan. Vaughan stipulated 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 just one month every year, ensuring that the collection remains in pristine condition. Turner: The Visionary is on display until January 31.

    Below Arvier, looking down the Val d’Aosta towards Mont Emilius, 1836, Artist: Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775-1851, Watercolour on paper.


    Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

    JMW Turner (1775-1851) – The Rialto Bridge, Venice

    JMW Turner (1775-1851) – The Doge’s Palace, Venice

    The THE annual January exhibition of Turner watercolours runs at the National Gallery of Ireland from New Year’s Day until the 31st of the month. Turner – The Vaughan Bequest opens alongside an exhibition of prints from the artist’s Liber Studiorum series comprising landscape and seascape exhibitions.

    Inspired by Claude Lorrain’s Liber Veritatis or book of truth – a series of drawings conceived as a record of his landscape paintings to prevent forgery –  Turner’s most ambitious publishing venture was the Liber Studiorum print series.  In contrst to Claude, the Liber Studiorum by Turner was a set of 71 original compositions aimed at elevating the status of landscape art.

    This printing project made Turner’s work accessible to a wider audience and served as an effective advertisement for his work. In 1903, the National Gallery of Ireland was presented with a complete set of Liber Studiorum prints by the Irish-born clergyman Stopford Augustus Brooke (1832-1916).

    In 1900 the National Gallery received a bequest of 31 Turner watercolours and drawings from English collector Henry Vaughan (1809-99).  In his will Vaughan divided his collection between the national galleries of London, Edinburgh and Dublin and stiplulated that the watercolours should be exhibited every year, free of charge, in January when natural light is at its most favourable for delicate watercolours.

    The works arrived in September 1900 in a custom made oak cabinet which is also on display this year.  They were first exhibited in January 1901. The Gallery continues to adhere to the conditions of the bequest and the collection remains in pristine condition.

    Born in 1775, Joseph Mallord William Turner began his career as a topographical artist.  The Vaughan Bequest at the National Gallery of Ireland is a representative collection of Turner’s work on paper. Highly finished works, engraved for various print series, hang side-by-side with evocative sketches from his annual tours of Switzerland and Italy.  The collection tracks Turner’s development as an artist and reveals his enthusiasm for landscape.   Illustrated are two of his Venice watercolours as a complement to the Canaletto exhibition also on now at the National Gallery.


    Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

    J.M.W. Turner – The Lake of Lucerne from Brunnen

    One of the greatest watercolours by Turner left in private hands made £2 million at Sotheby’s sale of Old Master and British Works on Paper sale in London today.  The Lake of Lucerne from Brunnen, which depicts one of the most dramatic landscapes in the Swiss Alps,  achieved  one of the top prices for a watercolour for an artist.

    Inspired by Turner’s travels to the region between 1841 and 1844, the work was commissioned by his patron Elhanan Bicknell to hang as a companion piece to the iconic Blue Rigi, which achieved a record price at Sotheby’s in 2006 and now hangs in Tate Britain . Works from Turner’s ‘late’ Swiss series, of which this is one, have come to be seen as the ‘climax of a lifetime devoted to the expression of light and colour’.


    Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

    J.M.W. Turner (1775-1881) – Ehrenbreitstein UPDATE: IT SOLD FOR £18.5 MILLION

    One of the greatest works by J.M.W. Turner still in private hands comes up at Sotheby’s in July. Ehrenbreitstein is the most important oil of a German subject that Turner ever painted.  It depicts the ruined fortress of Ehrenbreitstein near Coblenz – a place of special significance for the artist. Painted in 1835  this late work is from a period widely considered Turner’s best.  Other works from this time now hang in the world’s greatest museums, with only a minute number of this importance and quality remaining in private ownership. The subject of enormous critical acclaim when it was first exhibited in 1835.  It comes up in London on July 5 with an estimate of £15-25 million.

    Major works of such quality by Turner are rare on the international market. The last example to be offered (Rome, from Mount Aventine, painted in the same year as Ehrenbreitstein and offered at Sotheby’s in 2014) made a record £30.3 million.  This was the highest price achieved for any British-born artist at auction, and placed Turner alongside Rubens and Raphael as one of just three artists from the pre-Impressionist era to have achieved prices at this level.

    Alex Bell, Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s International Old Masters Department, said: “This painting was one of five that Turner exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1835; the other four of which are now in some of the most distinguished institutions in the world. Of those five paintings, it was Ehrenbreitstein that caught the imagination of public and critics alike – and it’s easy to see why. Its extraordinary range and depth of colour, and typically inspired and imaginative use of light, would in any case mark this painting out as a masterpiece, but its true greatness lies in the way Turner applies his painterly genius to transform the ruins of the famous fortress into a poetic and symbolic image as resonant then as it is today.“

    Of the other four paintings exhibited by Turner in that year one is in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, one is at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, one is at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and one is in the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio.

    (See post on for September 8, 2014)