Exhibition opening in January

Detail from JMW Turner, 'The Doge's Palace and Piazzetta, Venice', c.1840

PRESS RELEASE: December 2010


‘Colour and Light: Caring for Turner’s Watercolours’

1-31 January 2011
(admission free)

On display in the National Gallery this January will be the Gallery’s own pristine collection of watercolours by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851).

This year the theme of the exhibition is care of the collection, past and present, which will look at the history of how Turner’s watercolours have been cared for, both before and after they entered the Gallery’s collection. It will include information on conservation methods from Victorian to contemporary times, addressing areas such as pigments, fading and lux levels. Inspired by the writings of John Ruskin, Vaughan had a special cabinet made to store the works. This unique cabinet, in which the 31 watercolours were presented, will be on view in the Print Gallery. The exhibition will also be complemented by a selection of silhouettes and miniatures from the Mary A. McNeill Bequest.

The London-born collector, Henry Vaughan (1809-1899), bequeathed 31 Turner watercolours from his collection to the Gallery in 1900. Following his death, Vaughan’s prized Turner watercolours and drawings were divided between three national galleries – London, which received 23 works (later transferred to Tate Britain); Edinburgh, which received 38, and Dublin, which received 31. Vaughan was very aware of how delicate and light-sensitive watercolours are. For this reason he stipulated in the conditions of his bequest that the watercolours be displayed in January only, when the natural light levels are at their lowest. The Gallery continues to adhere to the conditions of the bequest by showing these luminous watercolours for one month only.


An accompanying illustrated brochure will be on sale from the Gallery Shop (€2). A series of talks around the exhibition will take place during January (Room 20, admission free).