When Henry Vaughan bequested a significant collection of watercolours to the National Galleries of Scotland in 1900. He made a number of stipulations in order to preserve these delicate paintings for as long as possible and to make them accessible to anyone who wished to study them in perpetuity.
He asked for an exhibition to run every year for the duration of January (when natural light is at its lowest) and for the rest of the year, the paintings to be safely stored in a specially made cabinet.
The cabinet was specially made to house the 38 Turner watercolours and prevent light exposure and is now located in the Prints and Drawings Study Room at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Modern Two. Although the paintings are only on display once a year each January, visitors can make an appointment to view these stunning paintings on a one-to-one basis.
The annual display of the Vaughan Turners has become a much-loved Edinburgh tradition. The gallery is open on New Year’s Day and people flock to The Mound to enjoy the exhibition as soon as it opens. The room can become busy especially as they are on show for a limited time only. In the Prints and Drawings Study Room, visitors are able to spend time and get up close to the paintings, study the brushstrokes and often innovative mark-making; Turner was known to scratch into paintings with his thumb-nail to remove pigment and reveal the paper underneath.
If you missed the January window to see the paintings on display or would just like to have a closer look and inspect them in more detail, you can make a free appointment for the Prints and Drawings Study Room at Modern Two. Just email
[email protected] or phone +44 (0)131 624 6593 or +44 (0)131 624 6522 to arrange a viewing time.
The Prints and Drawings Study Room is open Monday-Friday, 10am-1pm, then 2-4:30pm.
J.M.W. Turner and Scotland
Charlotte Topsfield, Senior Curator of British Drawings and Prints at the Scottish National Gallery, discusses the work of JMW Turner and his connections to Scotland.