Turner and Bonington: Watercolours from the Wallace Collection.

Wallace Collection (London), Sep/23-Apr/24

The Wallace Collection, a prominent cultural institution in London, is inviting art enthusiasts and history buffs to embark on a captivating journey this autumn through its latest exhibition, Turner and Bonington: Watercolours from the Wallace Collection. Free and running until April 21, 2024, this exhibition offers a rare opportunity to explore the world through the eyes of two iconic artists, J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) and Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828).


The exhibition showcases a carefully selected collection of hidden watercolours by Turner and Bonington, both renowned for their mastery of the watercolour medium. This unique blend of their artistic styles, with Turner representing British artistry and Bonington with his AngloFrench heritage, provides a fascinating glimpse into the diversity of 19th-century art.


Turner’s watercolours transport us back to a time when the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) restricted travel to mainland Europe, compelling British artists to seek the Romantic concept of the ‘sublime’ within their own homeland. These works, created between 1809 and 1816, reveal Turner’s mid-career success as a landscape painter and his experimental approach to watercolours. Notably, his works reflect Yorkshire’s picturesque landscapes and hunting scenes.

Richard Parkes Bonington, Rouen, c. 1825 © The Trustees of the Wallace Collection

The exhibition takes viewers on a chronological journey, beginning with Turner’s Scarborough Castle: Boys Crab Fishing (1809) and progressing to Bonington’s views of the Normandy coast, painted during the early 1820s after his sketching tours of the region. The journey concludes with Bonington’s two captivating views of the Doge’s Palace in Venice, painted during his visit in 1826.


Richard Parkes Bonington, born near Nottingham, honed his artistic skills by creating watercolour copies of Dutch and Flemish landscapes in the Louvre. His artwork, exhibited in both England and France, is celebrated for its unique perspective on the world.


Throughout the exhibition, visitors can admire and compare Turner and Bonington’s shared objective—the exploration of the atmospheric effects of light. This theme reflects the essence of travel, whether within one’s own country or abroad. It invites you to explore the mysterious Normandy coves, notorious for smuggling, and experience the allure of Venice, the heart of the Grand Tour.

Richard Parkes Bonington, Venice The Piazzeta, C. 1826-27

The exhibition not only delves into these themes but also offers a chance to appreciate the artists’ exceptional skills and techniques within the medium of watercolour. These watercolours from the Wallace Collection are rarely displayed due to their sensitivity to light, making this exhibition a unique opportunity to witness the artistry of Turner and Bonington.


The Wallace Collection has launched a series of free displays following the installation of a new display space at the museum, supported by the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund. This partnership between philanthropy and government funding allows the institution to share its remarkable collections with the public. Dr. Xavier Bray, Director of the Wallace Collection, expresses gratitude to the fund for supporting the creation of this new display space.

J.M.W. Turner, Hackfall, Near Ripon, C. 1816

The exhibition provides a glimpse into the wonders held within the Wallace Collection and marks the beginning of a series of exciting displays that will engage and captivate audiences.


The Wallace Collection, as one of Britain’s leading cultural institutions, is home to an extraordinary ensemble of fine and decorative arts. Its collection includes oil paintings, princely arms and armour, and an exquisite array of eighteenth-century French paintings and decorative arts. Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., it invites visitors to explore the glories of these watercolours and the wonders of its other remarkable holdings.

Sasha Maggiolo for London Art Walk
November 2023