Sir David Attenborough opened the first exhibition of J.M.W. Turner’s original work in the great landscape artist’s house in Twickenham on January 10th.
Sir David, who was born in Isleworth and has lived in Richmond for nearly 70 years, declared the exhibition open with the words,
“I would say to local people come here, because this is a joy.”
” I thank you all as a local resident.”
” I can imagine Turner now walking to Richmond Park, there is a lot of Turner still around here, but you won’t find it as vividly and as movingly as you do in this most beautifully and lovingly restored house. I congratulate all those who have been responsible and am privileged to declare it open.”
Thanks to a generous loan from the Tate, the exhibition Turner and the Thames: Five Paintings, features rare oil sketches at Sandycombe Lodge, 40 Sandycoombe Road, St Margarets, Twickenham TW1 2LR.
Sir David was given a private tour by the House Director Ricky Pound and trustee and curator of the exhibition, Andrew Loukes who explained that before its award-winning restoration two years ago, the house had looked very different to the house which JMW Turner had designed for himself.
“Of course, I knew that Turner was around here, but I never dreamt that there was a hidden gem like this. And it was hidden, of course, because it was rendered on the surface and had accretions of one sort or another; you could have walked up and down Sandycoombe Road all your life and never known that this was the place of the greatest 19th century painters,” Sir David remarked.
“The scholarship, the insight and the care of local people who rescued and revealed it is really astonishing.”
Sir David enjoyed meeting “Old Dad”, a feature in the kitchen, where the shadow of Turner’s father, who lived with his son in Twickenham, speaks to visitors,
“…downstairs there is an extraordinary stroke of genius. Really, really remarkable and only achievable, I imagine, in a little place like this, where you can walk in and see a silhouette of an old, toothless chap sitting in a chair smoking a pipe - Turner’s father. I’ve never seen a device like this before, its original and I congratulate whoever did this.”
He was also impressed with the restoration of the original brickwork and the hand-blocked wallpaper hung in the large bedroom, recreated from a tiny old scrap of original wallpaper. Sir David congratulated
“all the local people and art historians who have given such care and imagination and love in bringing this house back. Removing the render, taking such care in getting the right sort of contemporary wallpaper, reconstructing the wallpaper upstairs from a little fragment. It’s an extraordinary journey of imagination that you can make… this is a time machine.”