New Turner film sparks huge interest in his Yorkshire roots

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A NEW BIOGRAPHICAL film about one of Britain’s most famous and controversial painter’s could be set to spark a renewed interest in his strong links with Yorkshire.

JMW Turner sketched at dozens of sites across Yorkshire and produced around 40 or 50 watercolours of landscapes and buildings in the county.

Timothy Spall as Joseph Mallord William Turner

Timothy Spall as Joseph Mallord William Turner

Mike Leigh’s film Mr Turner has won rave reviews from critics and has been welcomed by tourism agency Welcome To Yorkshire.

They produced a Turner Trails website at www.yorkshire.com/turner around three years ago and are hoping the hype surrounding Mr Turner will lead to renewed interest.

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “Turner loved Yorkshire and visited around 70 places across the county, sketching and painting – a great example of how dramatic and inspiring Yorkshire’s landscapes are and why millions of visitor come here from all over the world.

“To take advantage of this interest, we launched a campaign featuring trails, podcasts, interpretation boards and guides to help bring Turner’s Yorkshire to life.”

Timothy Spall as Joseph Mallord William Turner

Timothy Spall as Joseph Mallord William Turner

Richard Knight, head of production at Screen Yorkshire, said: “There is no doubt that the success of the film will lead to renewed interest in Turner and his Yorkshire connections, increasing visitor numbers to both Otley, Harewood and Wentworth Woodhouse, and further adding to the county’s burgeoning filming legacy.”

Mr Turner was filmed in part in Rotherham at Wentworth Woodhouse, which was used as a double for London’s Royal Academy of Arts.

But the producers did not follow the artist’s actual footsteps and Turner’s connections with Yorkshire were far more wide ranging than the single location suggests

David Hill, 61, of Roundhay, is a retired professor of history and art at the University of Leeds, and a Turner expert.

Mr Hill has written two books on the artist – Turner in the North and Turner and Leeds.

He said: “Apart from his native London, Turner probably visited no other city more often than Leeds. He came here virtually annually from 1797 to the mid 1820’s.

“His first important patron was Edward Lascelles, son of the First Earl of Harewood. He painted a complete set of pictures at he house, most of which are still there, when he was only 22 in 1797.

“It was almost his breakthrough commission. He used that as a basis of making a big tour of Yorkshire that year. He painted Kirkstall Abbey on that first visit.

“He got friendly with a chap called Walter Fawkes, who lived at Farnely Hall at Otley. He visited there every year from 1808 to 1824. They became very close friends and Fawkes bought 250 paintings.

“He was without doubt the greatest artist Britain has ever produced. In original art in Britain he is the equivalent of Shakespeare in literary art.”