William Turner, the English romantic ‘painter of the light’ who spoke with a strong cockney accent. A pivotal moment in art history, culture and watercolour technique. The British Museum is a staple in British fine art. They house over 100 drawings and watercolours by Turner. For over 60 years, the British Museum has been under strict rules for displaying Turner’s paintings. With the British Museum NFTs, they have figured out a way for folk to own a digital copy of some of the most classic art in their collection.
What was England like when Turner was around?
Joseph Mallord William Turner, thought to have been born in Covent Gardens in London on April 23rd, 1775. The year that the American War of Independence began. England was on the brink and everyone could feel it. Meanwhile, British redcoats and the local militia at Lexington, Massachusetts, led to the fighting that started the American War of Independence. Whilst England was going through political and historic change, the art world was not ready for the painter who was growing up.
At home, his father encouraged his artistic talent. For example, he showed off his drawings in his shop. In December 1789, after a term’s probation, Turner entered the Royal Academy Schools. During, he progressed from the Plaister Academy, drawing from casts of ancient sculpture to the life class in 1792. Turner gained the value of quick sketches on the spot when travelling outside of London. This excelled his life drawing abilities. He spent a lifetime creating highly recognisable timeless pieces.
How did the British Museum get these paintings?
Robert Wylie Lloyd, a former director of the auction house Christie’s, ended up owning a collection of Turner’s romantic artworks. He gave 20 paintings to The British Museum when he passed in 1958. This was not without strict orders from the former director. In his request, according to the museum, Lloyd said for two weeks in February the paintings can be viewed.
The British Museum has decided, to not go against the wishes of Robert Wylie Lloyd. Finding compromise within technology. The physical pieces of art will not be sold or touched. They will still exist safely at the British Museum.
Who are the British Museum working with?
They have teamed up with LaCollection, a French start-up platform to buy NFTs of artworks from museums. The latest collection of 20 artworks are across three levels, ultra-rare, super rare and open edition. The first ultra-rare and open edition NFTs will be available to those who previously purchased a Hokusai NFT during a private sale starting on February 8 and ending on February 9. General market sales will then open on February 9, closing on March 4.
In conclusion, it is very exciting to see how traditional, classical and romantic art move with technology. Past restrictions, such as the ones with Robert Wylie Lloyd placed on the artworks can be averted due to technological improvements. One can own a digital piece of work without physically infringing on the classic piece. The British Museum can house and look after their wide collection of treasured art without gatekeeping the actual art. We are looking forward to more British Museum NFTs.