Hastings: Fish Market of the Sands, Early Morning, 1824. © Sotheby's
Hastings Museum and Art Gallery (HMAG) has acquired a watercolour of Hastings beach by great British Landscape artist JMW Turner – fortunately for a fraction of the record-breaking price of the artist’s work The Blue Rigi.
Hasting: Fish Market on the Sands is the largest of ten known watercolours of Hastings by Turner, and was snapped up for £210,000 at auction on June 7. The museum was able to pay the price with help from the Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund.
“I am delighted we were able to acquire this fantastic painting,” said Councillor Peter Pragnell, leader of Hastings Borough Council. “We will be very proudly displaying it in the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery for everyone to enjoy. We were only able to buy this piece thanks to the Art Fund’s support and we’re very pleased we were able to do so.”
Detail of the painting, showing the two Greeks to the right. © Sotheby's
Turner and many other artists visited Hastings in the 18th and early 19th centuries, drawn to the area’s striking landscape and history. The watercolour of the fish market depicts local details and makes references to the area’s past, making it a hugely relevant work for the museum.
Two Greek figures symbolise Britain’s support for the Greek War of Independence occurring then. It is fitting that this imagery should be included in a view of Hastings, where nearby English independence was lost for only the second time in history.
“On Monday the art world watched with amazement as Turner’s The Blue Rigi was sold for a record £5.8m at auction,” said Art Fund director David Barrie, “and just days later Hastings Museum and Art Gallery is celebrating the purchase of its own Turner watercolour. The Museum is the perfect home for this brilliant work, which perfectly illustrates Turner’s exceptional gift as a topographical artist.”
The Art Fund donated £31,806 towards the purchase.