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.

Contributor

Maev Kennedy

The GuardianTramp

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