22 Jan 2022

Unique 1600’s view of Kilkenny joins Turner Watercolours in National Gallery of Ireland

Virtual exhibition to complement onsite display

Kilkenny Kilkenny Kilkenny

Francis Place (1647-1728) Ruins near Kilkenny (? Saint John's Abbey)

Some of the earliest depictions of Kilkenny in the national art collection are to go on display in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Rare drawings by Francis Place (1647–1728), who visited Ireland in 1698 include scenes of Kilkenny Castle and other locations around the city.

On 1 January 2022, the annual exhibition of watercolours by Turner opens onsite and online at the National Gallery of Ireland. 

Turner & Place: Landscapes in Light and Detail was cancelled in 2021 when the Gallery closed, due to Covid-19, following government advice.

This year, a group of 19 rare Irish topographical drawings by Francis Place (1647–1728), who visited Ireland in 1698, will join the Gallery’s exquisite collection of 31 light-filled watercolours by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851). 

The year 2022 is the 50th anniversary of the Gallery’s acquisition of Place’s works – on display in full for the first time since 1972 - which includes an early view of Kilkenny – a depiction of Kilkenny Castle and City from Wind Gap Hill - as well as scenes from Drogheda, Waterford, Dublin and Kildare. A virtual exhibition will be available online for visitors who would like to explore the show from home.


Niamh MacNally, curator of the exhibition, commented: "The jewel-like colours and experimental effects in Turner’s luminous watercolours are captivating, while the precise detailing in Place’s prospects, encourages close inspection, with the aim of identifying what has changed, or indeed stayed the same, over time. Turner’s atmospheric watercolours can envelop the viewer, whereas Place’s carefully observed landscape studies contribute significantly to the topographical history of the cities and towns he depicted in the final years of the seventeenth century."


In 1900, the National Gallery of Ireland received a bequest of 31 watercolours and drawings by J. M. W. Turner from the English collector Henry Vaughan (1809–99). Vaughan stipulated in his will that the watercolours be exhibited every year, free of charge, for the month of January, when the light is at its weakest. Since 1901, the Gallery has displayed the watercolours for the month of January, thereby upholding the conditions of his bequest. January 2022 marks 121 years since the Turner watercolours were first exhibited at the Gallery. 


Place’s views are the earliest known depictions of Drogheda, Dublin, Kilkenny, and Waterford within the national collection. This fine collection of early drawings, offering a glimpse of late seventeenth-century Ireland, was purchased exactly 50 years ago through the Gallery’s Shaw Fund. The January 2022 display provides the Gallery with an opportunity to highlight these two important collections of works on paper, both of which came into the Gallery by way of generous benefaction.  It is the first time since 1972 that the rare Place drawings will be displayed to the public as a group. 


Turner & Place: Landscapes in Light and Detail is on view 1-31 January 2022. The exhibition showcases the work of two prominent English artists, working centuries apart, who viewed the landscape at first hand, albeit with radically different results. The exhibition also highlights the importance of two key benefactors (Vaughan and Shaw), both of whom made lasting contributions to the Gallery. 


A programme of online learning events to complement the exhibition will include a free curator’s talk, an Irish language conversation event, a talk by Dr Helen Pierce, art historian on the work of Francis Place, and a series of online painting classes with artist Niall Naessens.


Find out more at


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