Three oil paintings deemed fakes and locked away for half a century have been found to be genuine works by landscape artist JMW Turner. The oils were left to the National Museum Wales in 1951 by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies of Llandinam, Powys, but discounted in 1956. Curator Beth McIntyre said the works had “gone from being worth thousands to being worth millions”. After new forensic examinations the paintings will go on show in Cardiff.
“It’s wonderful,” said Ms McIntyre, curator of prints and drawings at the National Museum. “It’s one of those things that you always want to happen.” Ms McIntyre said she first noticed the paintings – The Beacon Light, Off Margate and Margate Jetty – when she joined the museum 10 years ago. “Visually I could never understand why they had been deemed not to be Turners,” she said.
She said five of six paintings bequeathed by the Davies sisters in 1951 – one came later – were examined by Turner experts in 1956, considered not to be by him and taken off display. “Off Margate and Margate Jetty were deemed wrong,” explained Ms McIntyre. “The Beacon Light was said to feature rudimentary beginnings by Turner overpainted by another artist, to the extent that it was not a Turner.”
They have been examined intermittently since then, in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. A new investigation was begun, this time using more modern methods, to reassess the veracity of the paintings. The Beacon Light was previously thought to have been started by Turner but overpainted by another artist
In a process featured in the BBC One programme Fake or Fortune, the original locations of the scenes depicted were revisited, and X-ray, infra red and pigment analysis was undertaken on the canvasses. International art dealer Philip Mould, who took part in investigation, told the programme: “What we’ve managed to establish to date is entirely new evidence. Science tells us all the materials used in these pictures are consistent with the materials used by Turner.”
The result of the investigation was that Turner expert Martin Butlin, who had previously dismissed the paintings, was moved to alter his opinion. Edited from JMW Turner: National Museum Cardiff’s paintings ‘genuine’.