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JMW Turner and the Art of Watercolour


J.M.W. Turner & The Art of Watercolour


Saturday 10th October 2015 – Sunday 10th April 2016

Free Entry


During autumn 2015, for the first time, all nine of Bedford’s watercolours by J.M.W. Turner were displayed together. The exhibition spanned Turner’s career, showing the development of his unique, unparalleled work, from Cote House near Bristol, painted when Turner was aged just 16 and already a skilled draughtsman and watercolourist, to The Town and Lake of Thun, painted during the final phase of his career, when he produced some of his most innovative works.


One of the highlights of Bedford’s Turner collection is The Great Falls of the Reichenbach, painted in 1804. At over a metre tall it is a spectacular exhibition watercolour and a technical tour de force; Turner had by this point in his career broken free of traditional methods. Working on a large scale allowed him to depict the soaring perspectives he had witnessed on his tour of Switzerland in 1802.


The Reichenbach Falls are the scene of the ‘final showdown’ between Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis, Moriarty. The painting has developed added significance in recent years, appearing in the BBC series Sherlock and recently returning from the Museum of London, where it was the final exhibit in their blockbuster exhibition Sherlock Holmes – The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die.


Alongside the works by J.M.W. Turner there was an exhibition drawn from the internationally renowned watercolour collection held at The Higgins Bedford, including some of the great names from this enduring medium. It included works by Edward Dayes, Thomas Hearne and John Robert Cozens, who enhanced the young Turner’s vision, to his contemporaries Thomas Girtin and John Sell Cotman. Also featured were works by some of the artists who followed in his footsteps, through the 19th century and up to 20th century watercolourists such as Paul Nash & David Jones.