A unique view of Kilkenny dating from the 1600s joins Turner Watercolors at the National Gallery of Ireland



Some of the earliest representations of Kilkenny in the National Art Collection will be on display at the National Gallery of Ireland.

Rare drawings from Francis Place (1647-1728), who visited Ireland in 1698, include scenes from Kilkenny Castle and other places in the city.

On January 1, 2022, Turner’s annual watercolor exhibition opens on-site and online at the National Gallery of Ireland.

Turner & Place: Landscapes in Light and Detail was canceled in 2021 when the gallery closed, due to Covid-19, following government advice.

This year a group of 19 rare Irish topographic drawings from Francis Place (1647-1728), who visited Ireland in 1698, will join the exquisite collection of 31 luminous watercolors by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851).

The year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the gallery’s acquisition of Place’s works – exhibited in their entirety for the first time since 1972 – which includes a first view of Kilkenny – a depiction of Kilkenny Castle and town since Wind Gap Hill – as well as scenes from Drogheda, Waterford, Dublin and Kildare. A virtual exhibition will be available online for visitors who wish to experience the show from home.

Niamh MacNally, curator of the exhibition, commented: “The jewel colors and experimental effects in Turner’s luminous watercolors are captivating, while the precise details of Place’s perspectives encourage close inspection, in an effort to identify what has changed, or even stayed the same, over time. Turner’s atmospheric watercolors can envelop the viewer, while Place’s carefully observed landscape studies contribute significantly to the topographical history of the towns and villages he represented in the later years of the 17th century. “

In 1900, the National Gallery of Ireland received a bequest of 31 watercolors and drawings by JMW Turner from the English collector Henry Vaughan (1809-1899). Vaughan stipulated in his will that the watercolors would be exhibited annually, free of charge, for the month of January, when the light is weakest. Since 1901, the Gallery has exhibited watercolors for the month of January, thus respecting the conditions of his bequest. January 2022 marks 121 years since the first exhibition of Turner’s watercolors at the Gallery.

The Views of Place are the earliest known representations of Drogheda, Dublin, Kilkenny and Waterford in the National Collection. This beautiful collection of old drawings, offering a glimpse of late 17th century Ireland, was purchased exactly 50 years ago through the Gallery’s Shaw Fund. The January 2022 exhibition gives the Museum the opportunity to showcase these two important collections of works on paper, both of which entered the Museum as a generous donation. It is the first time since 1972 that the rare drawings of Place will be exhibited to the public in groups.

Turner & Place: Landscapes in Light and Detail runs from January 1-31, 2022. The exhibition features the work of two leading English artists, working centuries apart, who have seen the landscape firsthand, but with radically different results. The exhibit also highlights the importance of two key benefactors (Vaughan and Shaw), both of whom have made lasting contributions to the Gallery.

An online learning events program to complement the exhibit will include a free curator’s talk, an Irish-language conversation event, a talk by Dr Helen Pierce, art historian on the work of Francis Place, and a series of online painting lessons with artist Niall Naessens.

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