Fort Vimieux William Turner Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Fort Vimieux was purchased at auction for £2,469,600 in 2014, making it one of the most expensive Turner paintings in history. In truth, very few will ever now come up for sale, because of their ownership by the state.

The painting was unveiled at the Royal Academy in 1831. Turner would normally put his work on display here just as soon as it was ready, even in some cases amending it after it had already been hung in this fine institution. This has helped us to date his paintings pretty accurately, as all events at the institution would always be well documented. The artist was interested in sea battles, as well as war more generally, and found the drama to be highly suitable for his romanticist style. This artwork was particularly well received, both by British and French critics. At this stage in his career, Turner had been accepted as a technically impressive painter who was amongst the finest in all Europe at this point. He had also impressed a number of American collectors too, though up to now they had been unable to purchase any of his work.

James Lenox, a well known and respected collector from the US, would eventually get his hands on Fort Vimieux, having courted, unsuccessfully, The Fighting Temeraire for a number of years. He was passionate about Turner's paintings and was perhaps the first from that continent to acquire one of this master's major artworks. It seemed that his persistence did eventually pay off, though, it was eventually sold on before finding its way into the 2004 Sotheby's sale. The Tate in the UK own a huge number of bequethed works from his career and so there was little left to be spread between private collectors, which has actually helped to keep the artist's reputation strong and prominent within the UK, where his art is permanently displayed in some of the nation's best museums and galleries.

"...In this arduous service (of Reconnaissance) on the French coast, 1805, one of our cruisers took the ground, and had to sustain the attack of the Flying Artillery along shore, the Batteries, and the Fort of Vimieux which fired heated shot, until she could warp off at the rising tide which set in with all the appearance of a stormy night..."

Turner's description of the painting, which accompanied its display in 1831.