Famous Turner painting of River Thames bridge at risk of being exported

Updated 2018-12-01 23:02:00

LONDON, Nov. 30 -- A race started Friday to keep a famous painting by celebrated British artist J.M.W.Turner in Britain after it was sold to an overseas buyer for 4.46 million US dollars.

Arts Minister Michael Ellis has slapped an export ban on the work, Walton Bridges, painted by J.M.W. Turner around 1806.

Art experts say they believe it to be the first Turner landscape to be completed in the open air.

The painting, which was sold at auction in July 2018 for almost 3.5 million pounds, shows the double-span bridge that ran across the River Thames between the locks at Sunbury and Shepperton in Surrey. It had been erected in 1788 to replace a wooden structure, depicted by Canaletto, which had fallen into decay.

The piece led to a major series of Thames river scenes during a prolific period where Turner worked in sketchbooks and painted in watercolor and oil, collecting material for exhibited pictures.

It is believed Turner exhibited the painting at his own gallery in London's Harley Street in 1806, which he USed for personal and specifically English subjects rather than his larger, grand manner pictures which he showed at the Royal Academy.

Ellis said: "Turner is one of Britain's greatest ever artists, whose studies of British life still resonate with the public today. Walton Bridges'is a wonderful example of his distinctive style and his fascination with the landscapes of 19th century Britain.

"It has so much significance for artistic and historical reasons that it is right that we do all we can to save this masterpiece for the benefit of the nation."

Art expert Lowell Libso, who serves on a review committee, said: "This beautiful evocation of the unUSual and picturesque double bridge crossing the Thames by the market town of Walton was made at a time when Turner was mostly living at nearby Isleworth rather than in London. At that time, around 1806, Turner was frequently sketching in oil, watercolor or pencil from a boat which he rowed along this stretch of the Thames.

(1 British pound = 1.27 US dollars)

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