Upnor Castle, Kent | Joseph Mallord William Turner | image © The Whitworth, The University of Manchester | Licence: All Rights Reserved

The Whitworth, The University of Manchester

The fine art collections at the Whitworth have their origins in the Royal Jubilee Exhibition staged in Manchester in 1887, the year the then Whitworth Institute was established. Amongst the machinery and industrial design at the Royal Jubilee Exhibition was a section devoted to the leading practitioners of watercolour painting in England. Reviewers praised the works on display and called for a ‘representative Exhibition of English Water-colour painting from its crude beginnings ... up to the present time’ to be available for public viewing in Manchester. The reviewer commented further that: ‘This branch of art has long been looked on as peculiarly English’. A total of fifty-four works were acquired for the Whitworth from the profits of the Manchester Royal Jubilee Exhibition, including a handful of works by Turner (the Whitworth now owns over 60 watercolours and drawings by Turner spanning the artist’s entire career), which formed the basis of the collection and enthused the Whitworth’s earliest visitors.
The Whitworth received by far its largest gift of watercolours in 1892; this came from John Edward Taylor, who was the influential owner of the Manchester Guardian. The gift included some of the works for which the Whitworth is now internationally renowned. Today the collection of historic fine art includes drawings and watercolours by a range of artists, from Paul Sandby and Thomas Jones to Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites.



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