Turner masterpiece goes on display in Colchester

The Turner masterpiece Walton Bridges saved for the nation by Colchesterand Ipswich Museums Service in collaboration with...

The Turner masterpiece Walton Bridges saved for the nation by Colchesterand Ipswich Museums Service in collaboration with Norfolk Museums. Heritage manager Philip Wise with Cllr Julie Young Photo: Colchester Castle Museum - Credit: Archant

A Turner masterpiece saved for the nation by a consortium of concerned art-lovers, including Colchester and Ipswich Museums, will go on display at Colchester Castle later this month.

‘Walton Bridges’ was painted by Joseph Mallord William Turner in 1806 close to his home on the River Thames. It is widely regarded as the first oil painting by Turner to have been based on oil sketches produced in the open air, a practice which was to become a significant element in his work, and one that makes this painting so significant.

The historically important artwork was in danger of leaving the country, following its sale to a foreign buyer, but in July 2019 a rescue bid was launched involving Colchester and Ipswich Museums and the Norfolk Museum Service to help save it for the nation.

With the help of major grants from the National Lottery Fund, Art Fund and a private donor this nationally important painting was successfully saved for the East of England and the nation following its sale at Sotheby’s for £3.37m in 2018.

As part of the rescue bid the two museum services put together an ambitious plan, spanning a four-year period, to ensure the painting was made accessible to as many people as possible, especially the younger generation.

Central to this is a tour of the East of England with Colchester as the first stop. This has been made possible with very generous support from the Friends of Colchester Museums. The plan also includes a programme of educational and learning opportunities spanning the region. This brings together communities and will enable the painting to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, now it is in public ownership.

Philip Wise, heritage manager for Colchester and Ipswich Museums, who was instrumental in bringing the Turner masterpiece to Colchester said: “This is a significant moment for Colchester Castle. To be able to display an oil painting by J M W Turner, one of the greatest English romantic landscape painters of all time, is a huge privilege.

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“Like his contemporary, John Constable, he preferred to work outside rather than in a studio. In the case of ‘Walton Bridges’, we have to imagine Turner in a small boat sketching the river scene in front of him. It’s a truly remarkable piece of work and I’m thrilled to be involved in bringing it to Colchester.”

Councillor Julie Young, Portfolio Holder for Culture and Performance and Deputy Leader of the Council, added: “The acquisition of ‘Walton Bridges’ is of great cultural significance to the East of England and will undoubtedly boost the tourism and cultural economy of the East of England as a result.

“I am immensely proud that Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service were involved in helping to save this painting for the nation.

“I would urge as many people as possible to head to Colchester Castle to view this rather special painting.”

Walton Bridges will be on display at Colchester Castle from the September 26– March 28 2021.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, visitors should call Colchester Castle on 01206 282939 to book a time slot to visit. Your timed entry ticket will allow full access to Colchester Castle Museum, which includes ‘Turner At The Castle’.

Find out more on the Colchester Castle website.

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