The artist JMW Turner painted this view of the romantic ruins of Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire as part of his series Picturesque Views in England and Wales (1825-38).

The painting is developed from a series of early sketches, with Turner’s interest in the abbey dating back to his first visit to Malmesbury in 1791, when he was just 16.

Turner’s watercolour shows the abbey from the north, with the distant ruins bathed in a glorious golden light. The River Avon can be seen in the middle ground, while in the foreground cattle bask in the warm sun. A couple are engaged in conversation on the left, and several more figures can be seen approaching down a path, adding to the drama of the composition.

In 1833 the painting was included in a London exhibition of 66 watercolours from Turner’s Picturesque Views series. It has a long and interesting provenance, and was for a time owned by the Turner collector Hugh Munro. It now joins the collection of the Athelstan Museum, the local museum in Malmesbury named after King Athelstan, the Anglo-Saxon monarch buried in Malmesbury Abbey in 939.


Provenance as provided by the seller: Commissioned by Charles Heath (1785-1848); by 1833 with Thomas Tomkison (aka Tomkinson) (c.1762-1853); by 1840 with Benjamin Godfrey Windus (1790-1867); HAJ Munro of Novar (1794-1864

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