The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is hosting a small and intimate exhibition of paintings by WMJ Turner. The exhibition entitled Watercolours from the West is a collection of Turner’s work from when he was holidaying in Bristol with friends of his father.
The quality of the art is that much more breathtaking when one learns that at the time of painting some of them, Turner was only fifteen or sixteen. The paintings also display the roots of many motifs and preoccupations that would come to define Turner’s career. At the time of these paintings Turner was studying at the Royal Academy School in London. He had been accepted into the school in 1789 at the tender age of fourteen. His first water colour painting, A View of the Archbishop’s Palace, Lambeth was accepted for the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition. Turner in his teens As well as travelling and painting extensively in Wales, the young Turner went and stayed with his father’s friends, the Narraway family, in the centre of Bristol. During this stay Turner painted The Mouth of Avon, Seen from a Cave below Clifton. This painting is a new acquisition of the Bristol Museum and Gallery, and Watercolours from the West is the first time they have put it on display. Turner was drawn to the Avon gorge depicted in this painting and spent so much time scrambling about there that his hosts nicknamed him ‘Prince of Rocks.’ The picture is a masterpiece and stands out at the exhibitions. In this painting, curator Jenny Gaschte says, one can recognise Turner’s ‘fascination with atmosphere and unusual detail.’ We see the spring of what was to be a lifelong obsession with dramatic landscape and foreshadows later climactic scenes such as the celebrated Dudley painting. Though schooled in life drawing in London, Turner, titled ‘the painter of the light’, was to stick to landscapes throughout his careers believing them to be superior to all other forms. The character and spirit others artists were to find in the faces of their subjects Turner drew out of the land. John Ruskin is recorded to have said that no painter could better ‘stirringly and truthfully measure the moods of nature.’ Your Visit The exhibitions is free and to be found on the first floor of the gallery. The venue is open from 10am – 5pm Monday to Friday, and 10am - 6pm Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. There are multiple bus lines that visitors coming from within the city can take to reach the gallery, and Clifton Down Station is only a fifteen minute walk away. There are car parks nearby for those arriving by car, or indeed one can book with Blacklane’s Bristol limousine service, which offers transport throughout the city. For the budding art lovers out there, beyond the exhibition, the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery will be putting on an introductory session to painting in water colour for over sixteen year olds. There are also opportunities for school groups to organizing workshops and hosted visits.