Turner paintings on annual display . . . but only for January

Weak light in January seen as perfect to display masterpieces in National Gallery

Gallery visitors taking a close look at watercolours and drawings by JMW Turner at the annual January showing at the National Gallery of Ireland. Photograph: Eric Luke

Gallery visitors taking a close look at watercolours and drawings by JMW Turner at the annual January showing at the National Gallery of Ireland. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

It is 116 years since English collector Henry Vaughan died leaving in his will a stipulation that the watercolours by JMW Turner he was gifting to the Irish nation be only shown in January.

The dim light of January was judged by Vaughan to be perfect for the 31 watercolours which are exhibited annually in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Strong light can affect watercolours over a long period of time. The gallery can now control light to show the watercolours all year round, but have stayed true to Vaughan’s request.

“It creates a little excitement and anticipation every January. It has also helped us keep the watercolours in pristine condition,” said gallery spokeswoman Valerie Keogh.

January 1901

The 31 works arrived in Dublin in September 1900 in a custom-made oak cabinet and went on show for the first time in the National Gallery in January 1901.

Painted during the English Romanticist landscape artist’s many trips to Europe in his later years, the watercolours capture scenic locations such as the Doge’s Palace in Venice, Lake Lucerne, and the fortresses at Bellinzona in Switzerland.

Some of Turner’s most striking works in watercolour were produced during the 1840s, and show how the artist magically captured the effects of light.