Turner exhibition at Petworth House
- Credit: Bill Batten
A new Turner exhibition at Petworth House celebrates the artist and Mike Leigh’s much-lauded biopic
Mike Leigh’s meticulously researched film, Mr Turner, was an undoubted box office hit at the end of 2014, with its fascinating insights into the life and works of Britain’s greatest landscape artist, JMW Turner. Much of the film’s action was located at Petworth House and Park, the National Trust’s 17th-century mansion near Midhurst.
With strong connections to Turner and his works, Petworth House and Park is now hosting an exhibition based on the film. The 19th-century artist was a frequent visitor to Petworth, immortalising several views of the house and park in his paintings as a tribute to his fondness for the estate and its owner, the 3rd Earl of Egremont, who was one of his most supportive patrons.
Among the items on display in Mr Turner - an exhibition, which runs from 10 January 2015 until 11 March, are more than 30 works of art on loan from major collections, props and costumes from the film and personal ephemera belonging to Turner himself, including his painting materials, fishing rod, signet ring, watch and books. Some of these more personal items have never been displayed in public before, making the exhibition a rare opportunity to examine the life of the artist in detail.
Dramatic land and seascapes
Andrew Loukes, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at Petworth House and Park says: “Turner was a highly secretive yet controversial British painter, who was known for his dramatic land and seascapes in oil and watercolour. We’re extremely fortunate to have 20 of his paintings already on permanent display at Petworth House, and are thrilled to now be able to add significantly to them with this exhibition inspired by the themes in the film, Mr Turner.
“My co-curator, Jacqueline Riding and I have worked closely with the film-makers and researchers for Mr Turner. We’ve been loaned several important Turner paintings from the Tate, V&A and other collections for the next two months, as well as original drawings and paintings made by the actor Timothy Spall as he trained for his eponymous role in the film.
“Another highlight is a touching watercolour portrait of Turner by John Phillip, a Scottish contemporary of his, which is believed to be the last painted image of the artist before his death in 1851. Visitors will also be able to enjoy a painting of Turner in the garden of the Chelsea cottage he secretly shared with his Margate landlady, under the name Mr Booth. This picture was recently discovered on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow and has not been exhibited since 1852, so it’s really exciting to have it at Petworth.”
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All the rooms that hold the resident Petworth Turners and those that featured in the film are open to the public for the duration of the exhibition, including the glorious Artist’s Studio, used by Turner and other artist-guests in the 19th Century. There is also a short film about the making of Mr Turner at Petworth.
An extraordinary and rarefied place
Mike Leigh and his team spent a week filming in the historical surroundings of Petworth House. Very little had to be done to convert the interiors to represent the correct historical period. Leigh said of his choice of location: “Petworth wrote itself into the film rather than us having to think of possible stately homes; it is such an extraordinary and rarefied place. When you’re there and you’re saying, ‘OK, let’s pretend it’s 1828’ and you do all the research, and get into the costumes and breathe the air, you really do experience some kind of magic.”
Mr Turner - an exhibition opens on 10 January and runs daily until 11 March. Pre-booking is essential and tickets cost £12. Call the box office on 0844 249 1895, or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworthturner
To discover more about the National Trust’s 2015 events programme in Sussex and the South East, go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/southeast***
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