The romantic painter landscape Walton Bridges has been rescued in a last-minute intervention.
JMW Turner’s early masterpiece was sold a year ago at auction at Sothbey’s to an overseas collector, who paid almost £3.5 million for it. Luckily, as the Arts minister Rebecca Pow said, the art has been “saved for the nation”.
After the auction, a temporary export bar was placed on the picture, so it couldn’t leave the UK because of its cultural significance. Right after the new purchaser was barred from taking the masterpiece away, a consortium of museums, teamed up to start a campaign to buy Walton Bridges and keep the artwork in the country.
Norfolk Museums Service led the campaign, joined by Colchester and Ipswich Museums, and they started raising money for an events programme. A private donor and Art Fund also donated money for the cause, until a £2.1 million contribution from the National Lottery Heritage Fund appeared to save the day.
“Turner’s magnificent work, painted at the beginning of the industrial revolution, will now continue to be exhibited and admired and will inspire future generations of British artists thanks to Norfolk Museums Service”, acknowledged Ms Pow.
JMW Turner is one of the most recognised landscaped artists from the UK and Walton Bridges is especially important, as it is believed to be the first oil painting he painted in the open air. His 1806’s work shows a moment at the start of the Industrial Revolution. A bunch of cows drink water in front of the double-span bridge that crosses the Thames in Surrey.
Obsessed with trying to capture the essence of nature through its light, Turner painted a lot of river scenes surrounded by the sun’s warm light, always reflected on the water.
Walton Bridges will first be exhibited at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, before it is taken on a tour around the region until 2023, when it will be coming back to Norwich permanently.