JMW Turner illustrations of Sir Walter Scott’s work go on show

Miniature Lands of Myth and Memory opens at Turner’s House, Twickenham

Step into Turner’s modest villa in Twickenham this February and you may be transported away from bleak news and grey skies, travelling back in time and space by means of the artist’s sublime images of the Anglo-Scottish Borders and Western Highlands then onto the warmer climes of France and Italy. Miniature Lands of Myth and Memory, the house’s first ever exhibition since its recent award-winning restoration shows Turner’s delicate illustrations of Sir Walter Scott’s work, part of the house’s permanent collection and normally in storage.

The house’s inaugural show celebrates the successful collaboration of JMW Turner (1775-1851) and Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), arguably, the most influential and successful artist and author of their day , with Scott’s much quoted poetry and prose breaking publishing sales records; and Turner, who had already risen meteorically to Professor at the Royal Academy, the master of light and romantic landscapes.

Exhibition engravings photographed by

This exhibition focuses on their last collaboration before Sir Walter’s death in 1832, Turner’s illustrations to the Poetical Works, and the artist’s next commission, Scott’s Life of Napoleon Buonaparte, penned shortly after the Napoleonic wars and Bonaparte’s death.

Combining Turner’s exquisite scenes and Scott’s powerfully evocative text, visitors can go on a time-travelling journey through the north of England, the contested Border lands of England and Scotland and the wild Western Highlands. The miniature engravings will be displayed in the rural retreat Turner designed for himself, following a trail of landscapes, antiquities, folk tales and ballads that inspired Scott’s poetry, before turning to recent history and images of France, Italy and the battle fields of Napoleonic Europe.

The curator of the exhibition, historian Dr Jacqueline Riding explained how she settled on the title; “Turner and Scott were uniquely suited; both viewed topography as landscapes of myth and memory, the silent witnesses of past ages and recent history. Turner’s exquisite engraved miniatures are a celebration of the source of Scott’s inspiration and extraordinary creativity.”

Miniature Lands of Myth and Memory, which launches Turner’s House Trust’s programme of events for 2019, will run from Friday 1 February until Sunday 28 July 2019. Turner’s House, Sandycombe Lodge, 40 Sandycombe Road, St Margarets, Twickenham TW1 2LR is open from Wednesday-Sunday: 12-4pm.

Paint historian Patrick Baty discusses colours for the walls with curator Dr Jacqueline Riding

Great Scott!

Did you Know?
• Scott’s poem about the battle between the English and Scottish at Flodden Field in 1513 included his most quoted rhyme, which people often mistake for Shakespeare:
Oh! what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive!
• Scott created the modern historical novel, and helped put Scotland on the map as a tourist destination.
• He is immortalised in monuments worldwide. The Scott Monument in Edinburgh is the second largest monument to a writer in the world (after the José Martí monument in Havana) and Scott still appears on the front of Scottish bank notes.
• Scott arranged King George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822, during which tartan, once seen as a Highland textile was firmly established as the national fabric of Scotland.
• Sir Walter Scott’s most famous works include Ivanhoe and Rob Roy which have being adapted for the screen.

Photos of Turner’s house by Anne Purkiss