Anneka Rice opens ‘Seeing the Light’ exhibition at Turner’s House in Twickenham

Image above: Anneka Rice at the opening of ‘Seeing the Light’ eshibition of paintings at Turner’s House in Twickenham

Watercolours from the artist’s trip to Italy in 1819

Broadcaster, journalist and painter Anneka Rice opened an exhibition of J.M.W. Turner’s watercolours of Italy on Thursday 6 July in the eminent 19th Century landscape artist’s former home in Twickenham.

Rice is an accomplished artist herself, who studied at Chelsea College of Art and is now part of Maggi Hambling’s Master Class. She has appeared on Sky Arts’ Celebrity Portrait Artist of the Year. Opening the exhibition she said:

““I’m thrilled to be asked today, it’s a real treat to see and have a sense of place about where Turner lived and worked and found his inspiration.

“The exhibition is lovely. I love a small exhibition; it’s a treasure trove, it’s a joy.”

Image above: The Castel dell’Ovo, Naples, with Capri in the distance, Tate

Despite living locally in Barnes, Anneka had never visited the house before.

“I have a connection to Turner which I am now going to show off, that until very, very recently, until a few months ago we lived on the terrace in Barnes and Turner has a very famous painting called “Mortlake Terrace: Early Summer Morning ” and the sweep of the Thames goes round and there is our house.

“I’ve always been gripped by that lovely connection. We checked out its location and it’s not exactly local, it’s in the Frick collection in New York, but I’m determined to get that painting from them at some point!”

“Good luck with the exhibition, it’s fantastic!”

Image above: The Roman Campagna from Monte Testaccio, Sunset. Tate

“He was absolutely indefatigable. He filled 26 sketchbooks in six months” – curator Dr Carly Collier

The exhibition opening was also attended by Edward, Lord Vaizey of Didcot, who was Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries from 2010 to 2016 and presents a culture show on Times Radio, and by designer and art consultant Lady Caroline Percy, whose family home is Syon House.

Dr Carly Collier, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of History, University College Dublin and curator of this exhibition, said:

““I am delighted and grateful to have curated this exhibition in the absolutely unique setting of what Lucinda calls Turner’s only 3D artwork,  the house that he designed and enjoyed and knew so well. It has been the most special experience to get to think about Turner’s watercolours, his practice, and  life in the important context of the house.”

“The exhibition explores Turner’s first sustained tour of Italy in 1819. It struck me as I worked on this exhibition exemplifies of the characteristics we associate with Turner – ambition, singlemindedness, drive – he was an artist who wanted to achieve the very pinnacle of success, and fame and he certainly did that.

Image above: Venice, looking east towards San Pietro di Castello early morning. Tate

The artist was prevented from doing ‘The Grand Tour’ earlier by the French revolution and the Napoleonic Wars

“I can only imagine how incredibly frustrating it must have been for him not to get to Italy until he was a mature artist, at the age of 44. He couldn’t get there in his formative years, when Italy was the apex of cultural achievement and tradition.”

The French Revolutionary (1792-99) and Napoleonic Wars (1800-15) had made such tourism too dangerous when he was a young man, but when he did get to go, he made the most of it:

“He was absolutely indefatigable. He filled 26 sketchbooks in six months. He filled them with lots of sketches made in graphite, sometimes in a museum like the Vatican museum, sketching sculptures, sometimes sketching the countryside, sometimes people, sometimes out of his carriage, he was so keen not to miss things.

“He painted watercolours, most probably at the end of the day thinking about what he had seen, vivifying them with colour. Thinking about light, and atmosphere and colour and all those things we associate with Turner.”

Image above: Hythe, Kent, 1824, The Guildhall Gallery

Seeing the English landscape with new eyes

Italy changed his views of Britain, he came back and saw the British countryside, a very familiar countryside to him, through an Italian lens. The exhibition has a watercolour of Kent, on loan from the Guildhall Gallery, and another of the river at Richmond.

“We have guidebooks to show how prepared he was, possibly doing that right here at Sandycombe Lodge. It’s really nice to think of him making plans here and notes of places he wanted to visit.”

There is also the wallet-sized paint palette he used on his travels, on loan from a private collection.

“It’s so special to show how inventive and ingenious he was on the road, fashioning something he could use to capture on paper all of the wonderful things he was seeing.

“I think it’s a real privilege and a joy to engage with perhaps his lessor known works of Italy, but no less beautiful. They are magical. And it’s important to explore that special relationship between Turner and Italy. I hope that comes out in the exhibition.”

Image above: The Thames from Richmond Hill c. 1815. Tate

Visitors to Turner’s House this summer will be able to enjoy an exhibition of evocative watercolours capturing some of Turner’s first impressions of the place he was to later call the ‘land of all bliss’, and which provided inspiration for the rest of his career.

Seeing the Light has been made possible  thanks to  generous loans from Tate, the Guildhall Art Gallery and a private collection.

The house and exhibition will be open to the public from Saturday 8 July until Sunday 29 October  2023.  Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm. Prebooking via turnershouse.org. Turner’s House, Sandycombe Lodge, 40 Sandycoombe Road, St Margarets, Twickenham TW1 2LR.

Images above: Portrait of Turner as a young man; the house he designed and lived in, in Twickenham

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