Kildare Nationalist – The 1600s View of Kildare joins Turner Watercolors at the National Gallery for the 50th Anniversary Exhibition



On New Years Day, Turner’s annual watercolor exhibition opened 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 topographical drawings from Francis Place (1647-1728), who visited Ireland in 1698, joined the exquisite collection of 31 luminous watercolors by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851).

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 Kildare (a portrayal of Castledermot) as well as scenes from Drogheda, Kilkenny, Dublin and Waterford. A virtual exhibition is available online for visitors who wish to experience the show from home.

Castledermot’s drawing, which dates from 1699, features the remains of the castle built in 1181 from which the town takes its name and an unfinished sketch of the round tower. As the description notes, “today there is no vestige of the castle. In fact, Place’s sketch is known to be one of the only records of it.

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.

An online learning events program to complement the exhibit includes 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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