“Where therefore, and in this very town of Margate, he lived, when he chose to be quit of London, and yet not to travel” John Ruskin
Turner’s connection with Margate was the founding inspiration for our organisation. He loved Margate for the sea, the skies, and his landlady Mrs Booth.
He first came to the seaside town aged 11, having been sent by his parents to school in Love Lane in Margate Old Town. He returned to sketch here aged 21 and from the 1820s onwards became a regular visitor.
For Turner, location was of great importance. He remarked to the influential writer and art critic John Ruskin that “…the skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all Europe”. The unique quality of light in this part of Kent drew Turner back time and again.
More than 100 of Turner’s works, including some of his most famous seascapes, were inspired by the East Kent coast. Margate was the starting point for his visits to Europe, and a love of the sea stayed with him all his life.
Turner’s relationship with his landlady Mrs Booth (now immortalised by the shell lady at the end of Margate’s Harbour Arm) was clearly special to him - he even called himself ‘Mr Booth’ after the death of her husband.
Mrs Booth’s seafront guest house on Cold Harbour at Rendezvous, where Turner stayed when visiting the town, was originally situated on the same site where our gallery has been built.
From the gallery, everyone will be able to see the fine views over the harbour that Turner saw, capturing the same unique light that inspired his works.
From Turner’s time onwards, Margate grew as the destination for Londoners wishing to escape the smog of the city.
With the advent of regular, affordable paddle steamboat excursions, substantial sea-water baths and the first sea bathing hospital in the world, people came in their droves to benefit from the medicinal and recreational delights of the town.
As more people visited the seaside resort, beautiful Georgian and Victorian buildings were erected to accommodate and entertain holiday makers. Elegant squares, fashionable hotels, and crescents with sea-views; Margate was a spectacle of architectural grandeur, which can still be seen today.
In the 20th century Margate remained a favourite holiday destination for many British families. They came to the South Coast’s ‘Dreamland’ for the sun, sea, sand, amusements and unrivalled views. Our seaside town has left fond memories for generations of visitors.To discover more about Margate’s history, visit the Margate Historical Society or go on a group History Walk.
“The brilliant thing about Turner Contemporary is that it has given people hope that things are going to change here and also put Margate back on the map.” Tracey Emin, Artist
We are now part of the exciting regeneration of one of Britain’s oldest and favourite seaside resorts.
With the opening of our new gallery, we aim to put Margate on the map of regional, national and international contemporary art, making it a prime destination for art lovers, holiday makers, families, students – everyone.
Offering a landmark contemporary art space alongside the town’s many other attractions - the Theatre Royal Margate, Winter Gardens, Walpole Bay Hotel, Old Town, The Shell Grotto and soon-to-be opened Heritage Dreamland Amusement Park - Margate’s rich history will fuse with its bright future.
Many organisations are championing Margate’s heritage and future. To find out more, visit:
The exhibition brings together 95 works; over 80 watercolours and 12 late oil paintings, many from the Tate collection, to explore the important role that the depiction of the elements played in his landscape watercolours and paintings.
Read more here.
To celebrate our Turner and the Elements exhibition, we have commissioned artist Stephen Turner to look at JMW Turner’s relationship with Kent.
Stephen has selected 10 images that show the breadth of Turner’s work in Kent and invite readers to travel to a number of locations around the county visited by the artist himself.
Download the tour from the bottom of this page and travel through Turner's Kent...
Our media sponsor for Turner and the Elements, The Independent, have written a review of the tour, read it here.