The annual Turner exhibition at the National Gallery this January may provide a delightful little distraction in an otherwise humdrum month.
The National Gallery of Ireland hosts its annual exhibition of watercolours and drawings by the English artist J.M.W. Turner (1775 – 1851) throughout January. The exhibition takes place in the first month of each year at the stipulation of its bequestor Henry Vaughan.
Vaughan was an art lover and collector who compiled quite a portfolio of Turner’s works. It is believed he was concerned about sun damage that had been caused to the Turner paintings during some early exhibitions. On his death in 1899 he entrusted his Turner collection to galleries in Dublin, Edinburgh and London, with the bequest stipulating that the works should be “exhibited to the public all at one time, free of charge, during the month of January”.
Vaughan’s concern was the long term safety of the works, and although lighting and exhibition techniques have developed such that the delicate works could probably be displayed throughout the year without damage, the galleries continue to honour the bequest. The more romantic among us believe that when the twinkling decorations of Christmas are stripped the paintings are hung as a source of light and luminosity in the dimness of January.
Vaughan bequeathed 31 paintings and the National Gallery of Ireland have amassed more to bring their Turner collection to 36 watercolour and a selection of prints. The exhibition covers all periods of Turner’s career – from early British topographical scenes to his later scenes of Europe, particularly Venice.
This isn’t a large exhibition but it’s comprehensive in documenting the evolution of the artist’s works – comprising delicately washy water and landscapes to more vibrant studies of light. This year, due to the gallery’s renovation works, the paintings are displayed in the Beit Wing in their original frames, now chipped, worn and appropriate.
The National Gallery of Ireland also holds free lectures and talks throughout the year. During January many of these will focus on the works of Turner. You’ve still got plenty of time to catch the paintings this January, but if you don’t, well, there’s always next year.
At the National Gallery of Ireland – Beit Wing (Room 7), from 1st to 31st January. Admission free. Open Monday – Saturday 9.30am – 5.30pm; Thursday 9.30am – 8.30pm; Sunday 12pm – 5.30pm.
National Gallery of Ireland
Merrion Square West
Tel: 01 661 5133
Lead image © DUBLIN BUZZ; all other images via NGI