The art of watercolour brought home to Bedford with J.M.W Turner exhibition at The Higgins


THIS autumn, for the first time, all nine of Bedford’s watercolours by J.M.W Turner will be displayed together in the Higgins, Bedford.

The exhibition running from Saturday October 10 to Saturday April 10 spans Turner’s career, showing the development of his unique, unparalleled work, from Cote House near Bristol, painted when Turner was aged just 16 and already a skilled draughtsman and watercolourist, to The Town and Lake of Thun, painted during the final phase of his career, when he produced some of his most innovative works.

A tenth Turner is a view of Bedford, looking west along the river towards the Swan Hotel, Town Bridge and St. Paul’s Church.

The work is an engraving taken from a watercolour that Turner made as part of a project Picturesque Views in England and Wales, a series described by John Ruskin as ‘the great central work of Turner’s life’. Although the project was not a financial success, the watercolours and engravings that resulted were ‘unsurpassed in their range and power’.

A First Rate Taking in Stores is one of Turner’s most famous watercolours, in part because there is a rare first-hand account of its creation.

Turner allowed the son of his friend and patron Walter Fawkes to watch him paint. Fawkes described the process: ‘…he tore, he scratched, he scrabbled at it in a kind of frenzy and the whole thing was chaos – but gradually and as if by magic the lovely ship, with all its exquisite minutia[sic] came into being.

One of the highlights of Bedford’s Turner collection is The Great Falls of the Reichenbach, painted in 1804. At over a metre tall it is a spectacular exhibition watercolour and a technical tour de force; Turner had by this point in his career broken free of traditional methods. Working on a large scale allowed him to depict the soaring perspectives he had witnessed on his tour of Switzerland in 1802.

Alongside the works by J.M.W Turner there will be an exhibition drawn from the internationally renowned watercolour collection, including some of the great names from this enduring medium.

It includes works by Edward Dayes, Thomas Hearne and John Robert Cozens, who enhanced the young Turner’s vision, to his contemporaries Thomas Girtin and John Sell Cotman. Also featured will be works by some of the artists who followed in his footsteps, through the 19th century and up to 20th century watercolourists such as Paul Nash & David Jones.
Source: Bredfordshire On Sunday


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