Between the Sheets exhibition by J.M.W. Turner

Between the Sheets exhibition by J.M.W. Turner

Between the Sheets exhibition by J.M.W. Turner

Eminent authors open an incredible new exhibition at Turner’s House in Twickenham. Lucinda MacPherson tells us more…

Distinguished author and playwright Michael Frayn, and his wife, the eminent, award-winning writer, Claire Tomalin, opened an exhibition of J.M.W. Turner’s nudes on Friday 8 July in the artist’s former home in Twickenham. Frayn, the author of a multitude of critically acclaimed novels, non-fiction and dramas, revealed that the first picture he ever hung on his wall was J.M.W. Turner’s, Rain, Steam and Speed followed by his Yacht Approaching the Coast.

He discovered art in his mid-teens, which he described as, “A major experience in my life.” He would explore The National Gallery and the Tate. He said, “I first got to know the Impressionists …and, of course, their great precursor, Turner, as I walked around. Now, more than 70 years later another memorable experience; Turner again.”

Despite living locally in the Royal Borough of Richmond, Frayn had never been to Turner’s House, which made his visit a “double whammy”. “Firstly, this house, which I did not know about, which has been beautifully saved and restored. And secondly, this exhibition itself. The only human figure of Turner’s I knew was the self portrait of him as a young man. So, I was surprised, and others will have as big a surprise as I did, when they see this exhibition.”

The art critic John Ruskin was reputed to have destroyed Turner’s erotic art, reserving a few items to indicate what he called a “failure of mind”. Today these so called failures of mind are being celebrated as a roaring success at Turner’s House in Twickenham with the exhibition eliciting rave reviews in the media, including this week’s Exhibition of the Week in The Guardian.

Co-curator Dr Jacqueline Riding, adviser on Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner (2014) and author of Hogarth: Life in Progress, (2021), explained that the house’s exhibition programme is intended to show the many facets of Turner. “What is so wonderful about the show…is that we are teasing out the personal aspect of Turner…a very private man.”

“Scholarship has been done on many aspects of Turner and his diverse career as an artist, but this exhibition is the first one to focus on this particular subject”.

Co-Curator Franny Moyle, author of the critically acclaimed The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W. Turner (2016) and, more recently, The King’s Painter: The Life and Times of Hans Holbein (2021), and who came up with the idea of exploring this novel theme of Turner’s nudes and erotica said of the exhibition, “Here is a man who was called a recluse and a loner. I think this is a Victorian invention about Turner based on the last few years of his life when he was unwell. But in these intimate works you see him as a traveller, an adventurer, someone joining in social settings and attending parties. You see a fascination with women as an artist compelled to describe them objectively, sometimes as a catalyst for other scenes, but also, we see some wonderful tenderness towards his subject.”

“When you see Turner’s landscapes you get a sense of his awe and relationship to the wider world. In putting these very intimate drawings together you get a vision of the man close up. You can almost feel his breath on your neck.”


Between the Sheets will be open to the public from Saturday 9 July until Sunday 30 October 2022, Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm. Prebooking is essential via

Turner’s House, Sandycombe Lodge, 40 Sandycoombe Road, St Margarets, Twickenham TW1 2LR.

To learn more about J.M.W. Turner’s life, see this video.

Photos by Stephen Chung