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Turner: travels, light and landscape

Posted on Tuesday 21st January 2014
Picture of a ship in a stormy sea

'The Felucca', Joseph Mallord William Turner © National Museums Liverpool

Rare works from National Museums Liverpool’s collection

An extremely rare print and its copper etching plate feature in a stunning new exhibition on the work of British landscape artist, JMW Turner at the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

The print, The Felucca, is the first of only 30 ever made and is part of the Liber Studiorum series, Turner’s illustrative argument for the supremacy of landscape painting. Together with the copperplate original and the first five prints of the series, it forms a glimpse into Turner’s lifelong determination to raise the profile of landscape art.

Turner: travels, light and landscape runs from 14 February to 1 June 2014. Comprising some 30 watercolours, paintings and prints, the exhibition is drawn from National Museums Liverpool’s own Turner collection, one of the most outstanding in the country.

Director of Art Galleries, Sandra Penketh said: “Turner continues to be one of Britain’s most popular and important artists. His delicate works on paper are hidden treasures of National Museums Liverpool’s collection and we’re delighted to be able to bring them out of storage and on public display.”

Themed chronologically the exhibition explores Turner’s endeavours to challenge the widely-held assumption that landscape was inferior to historical painting. It was in doing this that he produced some of the most thrilling, evocative paintings ever known.

His early career is represented with a series of prints and a selection of watercolours which reveal a topographical and measured approach, featuring stunning depictions of Linlithgow Palace, Wells Cathedral and Whalley Abbey. Covering a period between 1794-1819, Turner’s travel for much of this time was limited due the war with France but a small selection of European locations include a bustling print of Basle and a tranquil watercolour of Lake Nemi and the Town of Genzano.

The middle section of the exhibition, which spans the period 1816-1833, includes works which reflect Turner’s interest with the rapidly changing British landscape. In the watercolour Dudley (once owned by the writer John Ruskin), the dramatic intensity of a town in the throes of industrial change is set against the backdrop of a traditional landscape. Symbols of tradition and faith (the ruins of Dudley castle on the hillside and the church steeples to the left) are pictured alongside the furnaces, chimneys, boilers and canal boats of the modern age.

Curator of Works on Paper, Charlotte Keenan said: “Turner strove to invigorate landscape painting with a new sense of relevance and vitality. The works we have on display reveal how Turner used landscapes to depict the changes emerging in British society, with the energy and power conveyed in scenes such as Dudley contrasting strongly to the idyllic Richmond Terrace.” 

A radical move to a more abstract style also begins in this section. Exquisite studies of light and atmosphere demonstrate Turner’s incredible innovation and explain why he eventually became regarded as a precursor to the later Impressionist movement in Europe.

The final area explores the artist’s later works and his influence. This section includes Hackfall and The Fighting Temeraire, two works believed to be painted by others in the style of Turner.

Exhibition curator Charlotte Keenan will be giving free public tours of the exhibition on 12 March at 11 and 2pm. For more details: www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/turner|

Artist biography

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851) is regarded as one of the greatest British artists of all time. He helped transform British art and raise landscape painting from ‘superior wallpaper’ (Carl Gustav Carus) to the defining genre of the period.
His long artistic career began at the Royal Academy Schools, London when he enrolled there in 1789. Throughout his life he was preoccupied with travel, light and landscape. He spent almost every summer touring throughout Europe, and the winter transforming his sketches into masterpieces of colour and light.
Turner lived through a period of great change in Britain and Europe; the French Revolution (1789-1799) and Napoleonic Wars (1799 – 1815), the ascension of Queen Victoria to the British throne in 1837 and the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Notes to editors

Heritage Lottery Fund

National Museums Liverpool is planning £2.8m improvements to the Lady Lever Art Gallery that will see 500 square metres of gallery space transformed and returned to its original architectural design.
The project has received initial support* from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Equating to a revamp of more than a quarter of the venue works would include making the gallery’s internationally renowned collections more accessible to visitors and a viewing terrace at the south end of the building.
The refurbishment would see more than 1,700 items of fine and decorative redisplayed and new educational resources would also be developed for local schools and the community.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.5bn across the UK.  www.hlf.org.uk|.

Laura Bates, HLF press office, 020 7591 6027 lbates@hlf.org.uk|  

*First-round pass

Heritage Grants* applications are assessed in two rounds.  A first-round pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding. A first-round pass may also include an immediate award to fund the development of the project. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second-round and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.

About National Museums Liverpool

National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues, including some of the most visited museums in England outside of London. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic.

We attract more than 3 million visitors every year. Our venues are the Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, the Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Border Force National Museum, Sudley House and the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

The Lady Lever Art Gallery houses one of the UK’s finest collections of fine and decorative art. It has the best collection of Wedgewood jasperware anywhere in the world and its collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings is internationally renowned.

Lady Lever Art Gallery Port Sunlight Village, Wirral L62 5EQ Admission FREE
Open 10am-5pm every day Information 0151 478 4136
Website www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk|

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