Four new exhibitions in just three months: why Britain is going wild for Turner

Four exhibitions dedicated to JMW Turner are to open across Britain as galleries clamour to display paintings by the 19th century landscapist. Some of the paintings have not been seen in the UK for more than a century, while others will travel outside London for the first time in decades.

The first show, "Turner and Venice", opens at Tate Britain tomorrow, displaying works the artist produced between his first visit to the Italian city in 1819 and his last in 1840. There will be 55 oil paintings and more than 100 watercolours, as well as prints, maps and sketchbooks.

From 24 October, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham will exhibit Turner's early seascapes while the later seascapes will go on show at the Manchester Art Gallery for three months from 1 November. From 7 November to 8 February, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery will exhibit 130 works in "A Vision of a Nation". A star of the show will be the privately owned Fairfaxiana Album, never before exhibited, which contains watercolours celebrating the evolution of liberty in Britain.

Also to be shown in Birmingham is the National Gallery's The Fighting Temeraire, which will be seen outside London for the first time since 1951.

Other works are coming from Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand; many of them have not been seen in Britain for more than 100 years. The National Gallery of Art in Washington is lending Venice: the Dogana and San Giorgio Maggiore and Approach to Venice, while the Allen Memorial Art Museum in Ohio has loaned View of Venice: The Ducal Palace, Dogano, with part of San Giorgio.

Ian Warrall, curator of the Tate Britain show, said he was not surprised at the interest in Turner, because Germany and Switzerland had secured important loans in 2001, on the 150th anniversary of his death, which meant Britain had not really marked the date.

Mr Warrall said followers of the painter should try to see all four shows. "They will learn something new about Turner from each environment. He's such a big artist, he's so diverse in his interests and range that you can't get the whole story from one."

Jane Farrington, principal curator at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, said she hoped its show would alert people to Turner's political awareness. "The late 18th century up to the early Victorian era was an extraordinary period of ferment. Turner felt very passionately about being a British person at a time when Britain was struggling to turn itself into a world power."

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