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JMW Turner masterpiece saved for nation and will go on show in Norfolk

Walton Bridges by JMW Turner. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Walton Bridges by JMW Turner. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Norfolk County Council

A multi-million pound masterpiece by one of Britain's most celebrated artists has been saved for the nation - after an eleventh hour Norfolk-led fundraising bid stopped it from being exported.

JMW Turner's Walton Bridges went under the hammer for £3.4m in an auction at Sotheby's last year, but the government slapped an export ban o it to give time for money to be raised to keep it in the country.

Norfolk Museums Service led on the fundraising, partnering with museums in Colchester and Ipswich to raise the millions needed to keep it in Britain.

Thanks to grants from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the art fund and a generous private donor, the money has been raised to buy the oil painting for the nation.

It will be the first painting by Joseph Mallord William Turner to enter a public collection in the east of England. Initially, from September, it will be displayed at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

The painting will then go on tour, with exhibitions planned at Kings Lynn, Ipswich, Colchester and Great Yarmouth over the next three years before the painting goes back on permanent display at Norwich Castle in 2023.

Arts minister Rebecca Pow said: "Turner's magnificent work, painted at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, will now continue to be exhibited and admired and will inspire future generations of British artists thanks to Norfolk Museums Service.

"I am delighted that the export bar placed on the painting allowed time for the painting to be saved for the nation, and I congratulate all those involved."

John Ward, chairman of the Norfolk County Council joint museums committee, said: "We are hugely grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Art Fund for supporting so generously our bid to save this remarkable painting for the nation.

"The campaign was also generously supported by a private donor. We believe we're uniquely placed to share the story of Walton Bridges with the public: Turner's influence on a number of artists associated with the region and represented in its collections, including John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough and the artists of the Norwich School, make it a natural home for the painting."

About Walton Bridges

The painting, which measures 92.7 x 123.8cm, shows the double-span bridge that ran across the Thames between the locks at Sunbury and Shepperton in Surrey.

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It is understood to be the first Turner oil painting completed in the open air and followed his move to Sion Ferry House in Isleworth in 1804/5.

The piece led to a major series of Thames river scenes, which Turner painted during extensive boat trips along the Thames during 1805-6.

The subject matter of Walton Bridges captures a pivotal moment in time: the beginning of the industrial revolution.

The painting uniquely held the auction record for a painting by the artist three times in the nineteenth century.

It accrued celebrity status from the first time Turner exhibited it in his gallery at Harley Street and it was probably also shown at the Royal Academy in 1806.

About JMW Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in London in 1775.

After attending school in Margate, he entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1789.

He is one of the best-loved English Romantic artists and became known as 'the painter of light' because of the brilliant colours which became the centrepiece of his landscapes and seascapes.

His best known paintings include Rain, Steam and Speed, Fishermen at Sea, The Blue Rigi, The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory, Dido Building Carthage and The Fighting Temeraire.

He died in 1851 and is buried at St Paul's Cathedral.

The acquisition of Walton Bridges fills a significant gap in the collections relating to British landscape painting in the East of England.

He was deeply influential on the Norwich School of Artists, such as John Sell Cotman and John Crome.

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