Turner’s Wessex – Architecture and Ambition, The Salisbury Museum, The King’s House, 65 The Close, Salisbury SP1 2EN, until 27th September 2015
This hugely enjoyable exhibition serves as a timely reminder that there are some very fine exhibitions to be found outside London. Combine Salisbury and the young J MW Turner and the results are quite magical. As well as works from the Museum’s own collection there are loans from Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, British Museum, Fitzwilliam Museum, National Galleries Scotland, V & A, Whitworth Art Gallery and the Tate.
A series of watercolours, executed between 1797 and 1805, depicting both the Cathedral and City were commissioned by Sir Richard Colt Hoare and the eight large ones of the cathedral which used to hang in the library of Colt Hoare’s family home Stourhead are reunited for the first time since their sale in 1883. There are also some studies of the famous Stourhead gardens too.
Another Wiltshire landowner was William Beckford and his commission for Turner to depict his Fonthill estate was also a feather in Turner’s cap. The sketches he created provide a fascinating glimpse into the erection of the famous Fonthill tower which would collapse in 1825.
Turner’s first visit to Salisbury was in 1795 and he would return to the area occasionally over the next thirty years – to Stonehenge as well as to the Isle of Wight and the southern coast – and these visits are recorded in the last section of an exhibition I have no hesitation in recommending.