Date Posted: 14th October 2019

There are three exciting exhibitions opening in the two major Cumbrian galleries next weekend.

It is a happy coincidence that a major exhibition of the work of J M W Turner opens at Tullie House in Carlisle just as the artist has been chosen to grace our new £20 notes against a background of his best known and loved painting The Fighting Temeraire.  Turner is one of our finest watercolour painters who could capture light and atmosphere like nobody who had gone before. It is great that he should be recognised and honoured in this way.

There is no Fighting Temeraire in the Carlisle exhibition.  All the landscapes at Tullie House are based in the North of England.  In 1797, 22 year old Turner headed north for the first time travelling around the northern counties - Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland - by stage coach filling sketchbooks and making watercolours as he went. These form the basis for NORTHERN EXPOSURE the exhibition which began in Harrogate, went on to Berwick on Tweed and will end in Carlisle on 5th January 2020.

It’s not surprising that the Lake District landscape made such a big impression on Turner that he decided to come back. Tullie House has supplemented the travelling exhibition when it reaches Carlisle by borrowing some of Turner’s first Cumbrian lake and mountain works which include Ullswater, Ambleside, Buttermere, Derwentwater and Windermere. He sketched and painted in all weathers – and there is a lot of weather in Turner’s work especially in the Lake District. You can feel it. They are mature and sophisticated for one so young.  There is a sense of immediacy in this show. You can seeTurner’s original watercolours and sketchbooks up close.  You can feel yourself walking in his footsteps and being as impressed as he was with what he saw on his first visit to the north. You can find the spot where he sat in some cases (see my last newsletter)

Running alongside Turner is another quite separate exhibition unique to Carlisle which will take you even further back in time to early 17th century Holland and another great master - Rembrandt.  The British Museum has loaned the gallery some of their precious Rembrandt etchings which is something of a scoop for Tullie House.

Both these exhibitions continue until January 5th 2020.  A day ticket to both exhibitions and the rest of Tullie House is £6.50 including gift aid.  (Children under 18 are free.)  But even better – an annual ticket with unlimited access (apart from special events) is £10. That’s a no-brainer and must surely be the bargain of the year.

Meanwhile at Abbot Hall in Kendal, we meet the 20th century with a spectacular riotous display of colour. Colour and Light opens at the weekend. showcasing the work of the Scottish Colourists which includes Peploe, Fergusson, Cadell, Hunter and others who were influenced by them mid-20th Century in Scotland. The Scottish painters seem to work from a magic palette which is in total contradiction of their dark,austere, grey climate.  These vibrance of these works which are on loan from The Fleming collection will lift your heart in the dark winter days ahead.

This exhibition continues until February 1st 2020 when the gallery will be closing for major redevelopment which includes much needed improvements to accessibility – not easy in a grade 1 listed building. So feast on this last show for a while. They hope to reopen in the spring of 2022 when they will be celebrating their 60th anniversary.

I will be at the openings of all three shows this week  so I will report back with more detail when I have seen them.


Turner: Northern Exposure  19th October 2019 – 5th January 2020

Rembrandt: Etchings  19th October 2019 – 5th January 2020


Colour and Light: Scottish Colourists  18th October 2019 – 1 February 2020