Athelstan Museum, Malmesbury is thrilled to announces its acquisition of the Malmesbury Abbey watercolour painted by famous artist Joseph Mallord William Turner.

This procurement was made possible by £380,900 of National Lottery funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and financing from the Art Fund. The watercolour of Malmesbury Abbey was painted over pencil sketches by Turner in 1827, when he visited Malmesbury aged 52.

The watercolour depicts Malmesbury Abbey from the north, early on a glorious summer morning, with the foreground flooded with light and cattle warming themselves in the early sun. The 12th century ruins had captivated Turner ever since his first visit to Malmesbury aged sixteen in 1791.

Originally part of an exhibition of sixty-six Turner watercolours from the series displayed at the Moon, Boys and Graves Gallery at 6 Pall Mall, London in 1833, the painting has been in private hands for over 40 years. Now, following renovations of the Athelstan Museum Malmesbury in early 2020, the painting is expected to be on display from late spring this year.

Over the following 18 months, a wide programme of art and creative activities based around Turner will be developed by the museum, designed to educate and develop skills for a range of audiences. Activities will include regular Turner lectures from experts and an art therapy programme, centred on those with dementia or those living in isolation. The programme of events will culminate in a spectacular Son et Lumiere in Malmesbury’s stunning 12th Century Abbey, planned for Autumn 2021.

Sharon Nolan, chair of Athelstan Museum, said: "I am very proud that we have managed to save this watercolour for the nation and, more especially, that it is returning to its rightful home of Malmesbury."

Turner was born in London in 1775 as the son of a barber. He entered the Royal Academy (RA) in 1789 at the age of 14, became a member of the RA in 1802 and a Professor of Perspective in 1807. His varied work included drawings, etchings, watercolours and oils. He last exhibited at the RA in 1850 and died in 1851 with his body laid to rest in St Paul’s Cathedral.

Stuart McLeod, director of London and South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, Turner’s depiction of Malmesbury Abbey now belongs to and can be enjoyed by the nation for the first time in decades. It’s incredibly exciting that its new home is Malmesbury, enabling people to see and explore this wonderful painting in the setting which inspired its creation.”

For more information contact the Athelstan Museum Media Team:

Lesley Wood | | 07836 575498