Turner watercolour up for sale for first time in 125 years

'Ruskin's View' of river Lune from St Mary's in Kirkby Lonsdale expected to fetch £300,000 at auction in January

A watercolour of a Cumbrian landscape by JMW Turner, which the critic and patron John Ruskin regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world, is coming up for auction for the first time in more than 125 years.

The view of the river Lune, from the churchyard of St Mary's in Kirkby Lonsdale, was already famous by the time Turner painted it in 1816: no less an authority than the poet William Wordsworth had insisted it was not to be missed.

Ruskin wrote: "Whatever moorland hill, and sweet river, and English forest foliage can be seen at their best is gathered there; and chiefly seen from the steep bank which falls to the stream side from the upper part of the town itself … I do not know in all my own country, still less in France or Italy, a place more naturally divine, or a more priceless possession of true 'Holy Land'." The scene is still known as "Ruskin's view".

The watercolour will be auctioned at Bonham's in London in January with an estimated price of up to £300,000.

The scene was one of a series for a book of north country views: the images and printing costs were so high that the project lost the publishers a small fortune.

Art historian Timothy Wilcox notes, in a recent essay in Bonhams Magazine, that Turner demanded a staggering sum for his contribution – 3,000 guineas, or 35 guineas for each of 85 watercolours he was originally asked to produce.

When it was last sold in 1884, Kirkby Lonsdale Churchyard fetched 820 guineas. Ruskin owned a print of it which he presented to the Ruskin School of Drawing at Oxford.

The landscape, last exhibited in the Great Watercolours show at the Royal Academy in 2000, was once owned by the shipping magnate Sir Donald Currie (1825-1909) who at one point owned 57 Turner watercolours and 14 of his oil paintings.


Maev Kennedy

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The real Mr Turner: has Mike Leigh’s film got its man?
Timothy Spall plays the painter as a rough diamond, a blast of the roistering 18th century in the moralising Victorian era

Jonathan Jones

31, Oct, 2014 @7:44 PM

Article image
JMW Turner's Brighton watercolour to star in first exhibition in 150 years
Exhibition to open in the Royal Pavilion centres on Turner's Brighthelmston, Sussex watercolour painted in 1824

Maev Kennedy

31, Oct, 2013 @6:48 PM

Article image
JMW Turner: master of the ocean

Turner is the sublime artist of the sea. But many of his seascapes were produced away from the public eye – and never finished. Richard Johns explores the impact of these 'secret' paintings

Richard Johns

15, Nov, 2013 @4:00 PM

Article image
Constable and Turner landscapes reunited for first time since 1831
Paintings behind one of most famous feuds in British artistic history go head to head at Tate

Maev Kennedy

25, May, 2018 @11:51 AM

Article image
JMW Turner sketch for The Fighting Temeraire on display for first time
Restored draft will accompany the final work in Tate Britain exhibition in London

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

26, Oct, 2020 @4:10 PM

Article image
Mike Leigh on Mr Turner: ‘He was an enigmatic character – conflicted. He was so driven. He never stopped’
Kate Kellaway asks the director if his acclaimed film about JMW Turner contains more than a hint of self-portrait

Kate Kellaway

05, Oct, 2014 @8:30 AM

Article image
Kriston Capps reviews the JMW Turner show at Washington's National Gallery and considers the painter's place in art history

At a transitional moment in British painting, JMW Turner was a force of evolution, writes Kriston Capps

14, Nov, 2007 @8:32 PM

Article image
Cannes 2014: Mr Turner review – Timothy Spall dazzles as artist JMW Turner

Peter Bradshaw: Mike Leigh's first period biopic in 15 years is a feat of confidence, with an outstanding performance from Spall as the Romantic landscape artist

Peter Bradshaw

15, May, 2014 @9:36 AM

Article image
Turner exhibition opens in Margate
Works by JMW Turner, including 12 oil paintings and 72 watercolours, go on show at Turner Contemporary gallery

Maev Kennedy

27, Jan, 2012 @4:36 PM

Article image
Turner paintings not seen in UK for 100 years to go on show at National Gallery
Two artworks of waterside scenes in Europe being lent by Frick Collection in New York for Turner on Tour exhibition

Harriet Sherwood Arts and culture correspondent

08, Mar, 2022 @11:58 AM