Triumph at auction for Hastings Museum

  • Published 9 June 2006

Art Fund has helped Hastings Museum and Art Gallery to acquire its first watercolour by JMW Turner, acquired at auction for a hammer price of £210,000 with the help of a £31,806 Art Fund grant.

Additional funding came from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund. This acquisition of Hastings: Fish Market on the Sands is a major achievement for HMAG and an excellent example of a regional collection working tirelessly over a series of months, putting together an extensive funding package.

On 11 May, Art Fund published new research which revealed that museums and galleries are finding it more and more difficult to actively add new works to their collections and a quarter of museums surveyed cited spiralling art market prices as a significant barrier. Against this challenging backdrop Hastings Museum and Art Gallery has managed to raise a substantial amount of money locally and has won significant financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Art Fund’s Director, David Barrie, commented on the acquisition: ‘On Monday the art world watched with amazement as Turner’s The Blue Rigi was sold for a record £5.8m at auction, and just days later Hastings Museum and Art Gallery is celebrating the purchase of its own Turner watercolour. The museum is the perfect home for this brilliant work, which illustrates Turner’s exceptional gift as a topographical artist.’

The subject of this beautifully executed watercolour is an early morning fish sale on Hastings beach with the East Parade, Battery and Castle in the distance. Fishermen in ‘tanfrocks’ and fishwives selling their wares are joined by a group of fashionable women, a boy with a hoop, and two figures in Greek costume. The watercolour is typical of Turner’s style, combining a dramatic and emotional response to nature with his fascination for human life and behaviour.

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