Hastings Museum & Art Gallery's first Turner watercolour is unveiled

  • 1 September 2006

A stunning watercolour of Hastings beach by JMW Turner has gone on public display at Hastings Old Town Hall Museum.

Hastings: Fish Market on the Sands, Early Morning was purchased at Sotheby's in June 2006 for a hammer price of £210,000, with a £31,806 contribution from The Art Fund.Additional funding came from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund and local sources.

The painting was unveiled at its new home by Turner’s great, great, great niece Rosalind Mallord Turner. The Turner family’s connection with Hastings goes back to the 1930s when Maria Turner lived in Eversfield Place. She donated to the town a collection of Turner’s furniture which is now used in the Mayor’s Parlour.

Turner was one of many artists who visited Hastings during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, drawn to the area’s striking landscape and fascinating history. The subject of the painting 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 inclusion of the two Greek figures is a reference to the Greek War of Independence which had widespread support in Britain at the time. It is seen as fitting that Turner chose to use a view of Hastings to make a statement about liberty and the loss of independence, as it was near Hastings in 1066 that English independence was lost for only the second time in English history.

The watercolour can be viewed alongside engravings of other local views by Turner, some of Turner’s furniture from the Town Hall and images of the Greek War of Independence collected by the family of James and Decimus Burton, architects of St. Leonards in the early 19th century.

The Museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10 – 5pm and from 11-5pm on Sundays. Admission is free.

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