Petworth House Hosts Unique Turner exhibition

Turner’s Sussex, at the National Trust’s Petworth House, will be the first exhibition to bring together the East and West Sussex works of JMW Turner, one of the nation’s greatest painters.

Opening on 12 January 2013, the exhibition features more than 40 carefully selected loaned exhibits of Turner’s Sussex works, drawn from major national collections including Tate, the V&A, and the British Museum, as well as from regional collections and private owners.

Turner’s Sussex takes place in Petworth’s newly refurbished Exhibition Gallery in its historic Servants’ Quarters building.

Petworth House and Park is a majestic 17th century mansion house in West Sussex, situated in a 700 acre park landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown. The house contains the finest collection of art and sculpture within the National Trust, including works by Turner, Van Dyke, Reynolds and Blake. The Servants’ Quarters offer a fascinating insight into the lives of those ‘below stairs’. During the 1820s and 30s Turner, one of the best-loved English Romantic artists (known as ‘the painter of light’ due to his use of brilliant colours for his landscapes and seascapes) was a frequent visitor to the house as a guest of his friend and patron the 3rd Earl of Egremont.

The works on display, mainly drawings and watercolours, represent the wide ranging importance of Sussex to Turner’s art. Highlights include:

  • a group of the famous small watercolour sketches on blue paper, now largely held at Tate Britain, which were made of Petworth House and Park in 1827, Turner’s pencil sketch of Petworth House, which he made in the park in 1809, displayed for the first time alongside the finished oil painting he made from it
  • iconic views of Arundel, Ashburnham, Rye and Hastings
  • rarely seen works showing many Sussex locations including Brighton, Chichester, Lewes and Shoreham

Visitors to the exhibition will also have a rare ‘behind the scenes’ opportunity to see the Old Library, used by Turner as a studio and not normally open to the public.

Andy Loukes, House and Collections Manager at Petworth House and curator of the exhibition, says:

“The volume and range of subject matter which inspired Turner in Sussex was extraordinary, and it’s extremely exciting to bring so many examples together at Petworth, where he was such a regular visitor. The exhibition perfectly illustrates Turner’s fascination with Sussex, as well as the two things which made him one of our greatest and best-loved artists – his phenomenal technical innovations and his sharp insights into the changing social world around him.

“Two fascinating key themes that also emerge from the exhibition are his relationships with patrons and the ways in which he set about making his pictures, and it is wonderful for us to be showing so many of Turner’s works in watercolour, a centrally important medium for him and one which is not represented in the Petworth collection.

“Alongside Turner’s Sussex, visitors will also be able to see Petworth’s Turner paintings in their usual locations within three rooms of the main house, as part of a parallel exhibition, The Petworth Turners, featuring new interpretation of the largest collection of Turner oils housed outside Tate Britain.”

David Taylor, Curator of Pictures and Sculpture at the National Trust, comments:

“The National Trust has been successfully engaging its visitors with both contemporary and historic art for some years now. For Petworth to be staging an exhibition of a major historic artist, featuring loans from some of the nation’s most important collections, is a fabulous addition. That the inaugural show in the property’s new gallery will expand visitors’ enjoyment of Turner at Petworth is particularly fitting, given the artist’s central role in the story of the house.”

Margaret Pegley a volunteer at Petworth House, adds:
“Petworth is a wonderful place to volunteer and it’s very special to us to be adding to our usual Turner collection with such nationally significant works. I know that visitors will be in for a real treat. “

Booking is essential for Turner’s Sussex. For further details and opening times visit

Jonny Mardling

Jonny Mardling

Jonny Mardling is the Editor of The History Herald. He has a keen interest in Second World War and Cold War history, and with a great grandfather who was killed during the Battle of the Somme, he also has a fascination with First World War history.

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