Exhibition Archive


Paths to Fame:
Turner Watercolours from The Courtauld

30 October 2008 – 25 January 2009

... a place of pilgrimage for any art lover ...
The Spectator

Throughout his life, Turner orchestrated his career with fame in mind. Intensely ambitious, he travelled throughout Britain and the Continent in search of inspirational views which would be commercially successful. Following in his footsteps, the exhibition tracks the evolution of his extraordinarily inventive and entrepreneurial approach to making watercolour landscapes. It also stresses the vital contribution of patronage and print publication and the role of collectors and friends, most notably the influential art critic John Ruskin, as champions and promoters of his work.


On view are works from across the artist’s career, ranging from an ambitious early view of Avon Gorge made when Turner was just sixteen years old to the monumental highly finished watercolours of his maturity and examples of the celebrated expressive late works. The works from The Courtauld Gallery are supplemented by closely related loans from Tate and private collections, enabling viewers to trace the development of certain compositions from early sketches and exploratory ‘colour beginnings’ to finished watercolours and published prints. 


The exhibition is accompanied by a special display of selected British watercolours bequeathed to The Courtauld Gallery by Dorothy Scharf in 2007.  This offers an opportunity to consider Turner’s work in the broader context of British watercolour painting of the 18th and early 19th century.


A special event series accompanies this exhibition. Click here for further information.

Watch six movies about the exhibition


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