Past Exhibitions

Soane and Turner: Illuminating a Friendship

An exhibition in the Old Kitchen at Sir John Soane's Museum from 26 January to 12 May 2007

In January 2007 the Soane will be mounting a dramatic and enticing show on the theme of the relationship between John Soane and J M W Turner. The display will include a number of important paintings on loan from the Tate including the large Forum Romanum for Mr Soane's Museum (pictured), painted for Soane but then rejected by him. The exhibition will take place in an additional temporary gallery in the basement of the Museum, complementing our main exhibition Visions of World Architecture in the Soane Gallery.

As well as providing a unique opportunity to see the Forum Romanum in the building for which it was intended, the exhibition, curated by Helen Dorey, will include a number of other important works by Turner on loan from the Tate. Ancient Rome: Agrippina landing with the Ashes of Germanicus, was exhibited two years after Soane's death but in the background there is a vision of Rome which incorporates a bridge remarkably like Soane's own RA Gold medal-winning fantasy 'Triumphal Bridge' and which has many resonances with J M Gandy's renderings of Soane's own works - prepared for Soane in the course of a thirty-year collaboration.

Other small-scale Turner works from the Tate including a watercolour study of two tench, a trout and a perch, from the 1820s. This delightful painting illustrates the close personal friendship between Soane and Turner who often fished together on Soane's estate at Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing.

While Soane was Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy his friend Turner was Professor of Perspective there, and the Tate is also lending two of Turner's lecture drawings to illustrate this connection. One drawing, showing the Temple of Neptune at Paestum and dating from about 1810, may have been inspired by Soane's own Piranesi drawings of the temples as at the time it was drawn Turner had not himself visited Paestum. The other drawing, entitled Reflections in a single polished metal globe and in a pair of Polished metal globes (also c.1810), is fascinating in the context of Soane's imaginative use of reflections, particularly in convex mirrors, in his own house.

In his lectures Soane praised 'the beauties and almost magical effects in the architectural drawings of a Clerisseau, a Gandy or a Turner'. Kirkstall Abbey, a work by Turner in the Soane collection, and a capriccio of Roman ruins by Clerisseau will help to highlight the qualities Soane admired in their works. Thus, this exhibition will highlight both the close friendship between the architecture and artist and the resonances between their work.

A 36-page, full-colour exhibition catalogue is available from the Museum Shop.