Exhibition: Turner’s English Coasts

This exhibition CLOSED on Sun, 5th Sep 2021

This exhibition has finished.

Coronavirus: Events may be cancelled and venues closed at short notice, you are advised to check on their websites before making a trip.

Cost: £8.80

Turner’s English Coasts focuses on the artist’s engagement with English marine and coastal subjects at a pivotal time in his career when he was living at Sandycombe Lodge (now called Turner's house); the house he designed and lived in between 1813-26 at Sandycoombe Road, St Margarets, Twickenham TW1 2LR.

The exhibition includes projects unprecedented in their breadth and quality through which Turner was to achieve an international reputation.

Turner painted the sea more often than any other subject: from the earliest paintings upon which his reputation was founded to his later experimental and contentious work, the sea remained central to his artistic vision. It also loomed large in British commercial, cultural and political life. As a maritime and island nation, there was a broad-based fascination with the ever-present risks of seafaring in a kingdom which boasts some of the most dangerous coastlines anywhere in the world. Furthermore, the Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815) encouraged domestic tourism, leading to British coastal towns and ports, particularly those on the southern coast of England, to be viewed increasingly as a mainstay of the leisure industry.

The contemporary vogue for marine subjects resulted in Turner’s monumental A Shipwreck (1805) being the first of his paintings to be engraved and published in 1807, the same year he acquired the land for Sandycombe Lodge (now called Turner's House). Encouraged by the commercial and reputational success of this venture, Turner embarked on a number of print-related projects that focused either exclusively on marine subjects, such as Ports of England, of which there are four examples in the exhibition and Marine Views such as Folkestone from the Sea. He also incorporated marine subjects into other series, for example the Thames estuary watercolours of The Rivers of England, an example of which is Rochester on the River Medway 1822, (see below). Castles, lighthouses and other coastal defences and landmarks were incorporated into compositions of great variety, thus melding artistic invention with a strong sense of place.

At about the same time, Turner embarked on an ambitious print project, the Liber Studiorum (circa 1806 to 1824), which he personally financed, overseeing every stage of production, and, as a gifted engraver, produced some of the prints. He also revisited earlier paintings as potential Liber images, such as Calm and Moonlight at Sea. One section of the Liber Studiorum was devoted to marine subjects. Turner would go on in the mid-1820s to produce a series of watercolours and mezzotints (a medium associated at the time with marine art) referred to today as the Little Liber, the majority of which are sea-related.

Guest curator, Christine Riding, Curator of British Paintings at the National Gallery, has selected works that underline the close relationship between Turner’s images of maritime Britain and contemporary print culture.

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Turners House,

40 Sandycoombe Road, Twickenham,

Map of Turners House