This exhibition was the first full display of The Courtauld Gallery’s outstanding collection of watercolours by J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). The works span the artist’s career from important early landscapes made when he was a teenager, to the highly finished watercolours and his celebrated expressive late works.
The works from The Courtauld Gallery are supplemented by closely related loans from Tate and private collections, enabling viewers to see the development of some compositions from early sketches and exploratory ‘colour beginnings’ to finished watercolours and published prints.
“… a place of pilgrimage for any art lover …”
Throughout his life, Turner orchestrated his career with fame in mind. Intensely ambitious, he travelled throughout Britain and the Continent in search of inspirational views which would be commercially successful. Following in his footsteps, the exhibition tracks the evolution of his extraordinarily inventive and entrepreneurial approach to making watercolour landscapes. It also stresses the vital contribution of patronage and print publication and the role of collectors and friends, most notably the influential art critic John Ruskin, as champions and promoters of his work.
The exhibition collects works from across the artist’s career, ranging from an ambitious early view of Avon Gorge made when Turner was just sixteen years old to the monumental highly finished watercolours of his maturity and examples of the celebrated expressive late works. The works from The Courtauld Gallery are supplemented by closely related loans from Tate and private collections, enabling viewers to trace the development of certain compositions from early sketches and exploratory ‘colour beginnings’ to finished watercolours and published prints.
Accompanying the exhibition was a special display of selected British watercolours bequeathed to The Courtauld Gallery by Dorothy Scharf in 2007, offering an opportunity to consider Turner’s work in the broader context of British watercolour painting of the 18th and early 19th century.
Paths to Fame
An introduction to the exhibition with curator Joanna Selborne.
Turner’s Book Illustrations
Turner used book illustration as a means of self-promotion producing hundreds of watercolours for prints.
Turner’s Early Ambition
By the end of the 18th century, castles, abbeys and churches were immensely popular subjects for engraving.
Turner had first visited Lake Lucerne in 1802 and always remained attracted to its scenery.
Sun, Sea and Sand
More than 100 works owe their origin to the time in and around Margate in the area of north-east Kent known as the Isle of Thanet.
The Lure of the Continent
When Turner left England his sights were set on Switzerland, for him the complete concept of Sublime landscape.