Turner watercolour returns home to Plymouth

  • 14 February 2007

JMW Turner's Plymouth from Mount Edgcumbe, purchased by Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery at auction in December, is now on display at its new home.

The Art Fund’s Director David Barrie travelled to Plymouth to speak to local television and radio about the acquisition – one of the most important in Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery’s recent history.

Plymouth from Mount Edgcumbe was purchased at Sotheby’s for a hammer price of £80,000, with a £30,112 grant from The Art Fund. Additional funding came from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

To celebrate the watercolour’s arrival, the Museum organised a Turner-inspired holiday workshop where members of the public created their own atmospheric drawings in response to the watercolour.

Plymouth, from Mount Edgcumbe is one of the best known in a series of Plymouth scenes which Turner produced for the publication, Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast. The subject of the watercolour is a lively social gathering on Mount Edgcumbe. A group of smartly dressed ladies and gentlemen and sailors dance and wave in celebration at a major fleet of ships before them, anchored in the Docks at Devonport.

As well as containing a wealth of local detail, the watercolour records an important period in Plymouth’s history. During the Napoleonic Wars the town had been highly vulnerable to a possible French attack and the threat of invasion. This threat finally diminished with the abdication of the Emperor Napoleon, and a period of triumphant celebration followed. Turner’s animated watercolour seems to capture this victorious mood.

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