Turner on Varnishing Day
Date Made/Found: about 1840
, British, 1813 - after 1891
Joseph Mallord William Turner
, British, 1775 - 1851
Material and Medium: oil on panel
Dimensions: Frame: 450 x 437 x 100mm
Sight size: 250 x 242mm
Accession Number: CGSG00741
'Varnishing Day' was a special event that took place at the Royal Academy of Art in London. Officially it was the day in which artists could varnish their paintings before the official opening of the Summer Exhibition. In reality, it was also a private viewing of the exhibition, in which artists, journalists and celebrities could meet and discuss the paintings before the exhibition opened to the public. According to reports, Turner not only used Varnishing Day to varnish or put finishing touches to his works but also to significantly alter or even finish incomplete paintings. It has been suggested that Turner is working on his painting’ Mercury and Argus’ in this portrait of him.
There are few portraits of Turner, and this portrait by Parrott, supposedly painted from life (from sketches made in front of Turner), is a rare illustration of his appearance towards the end of his life.