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Watercolour painting of Lichfield Cathedral expected to raise at least £500,000 at auction

A rarely-seen watercolour painting of Lichfield Cathedral by Turner is going under the hammer.

Sotheby’s in London will auction off the work, which has been in private collections since the artist’s death in 1851.

Turner's watercolour painting of Lichfield Cathedral

Turner’s watercolour painting of Lichfield Cathedral

It is currently on display at the cathedral until June 11 as part of the Mr Turner Comes To Lichfield exhibition, but will be sold to the highest bidder on July 5, with all proceeds going to the cathedral.

Mark Griffiths-Jones, director at Sotheby’s and an expert in British watercolours and drawings, said: “We are honoured to be handling this very special sale on behalf of Lichfield Cathedral.

“Turner was, without question, the most famous artist to paint the cathedral and a pivotal figure in the history of British painting.

“This magnificent watercolour is a tour-de-force of Turner’s art and illustrates his virtuosity as a painter and watercolourist.”

Despite holding a reserve price of £300,000, the piece, depicting the three-spired medieval structure soaring above a body of water, is expected to fetch anywhere between £500,000 and £800,000 at auction.

Simon Warburton, executive director of Lichfield Cathedral, says: “A legacy like this happens once in a lifetime.

“All of the proceeds from the sale will go towards the upkeep of the cathedral and its surroundings. It currently costs us £5,000 per day to keep the cathedral open, and we don’t receive any funding from the Church of England or the government, so the sale will directly help us preserve this wonderful cathedral for generations to come.

“Although we don’t have the facilities to display a painting like this permanently, we’re delighted we’ve been able to share this masterpiece with the public before it returns to Sotheby’s to be sold in July.

“More than 13,000 people have already come to see it and we expect many more before the exhibition closes.”

The Mr Turner Comes to Lichfield exhibition also features sketchbooks on loan from the Tate Britain, as well as other pieces by the likes of Thomas Girtin and John Piper.

The Very Reverend Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield, added: “It’s been a privilege for us to be able to display this exquisite artwork by one of the most famous painters in the world.

“Seeing as this beautiful watercolour may once again be confined to a private collection, our Mr Turner Comes To Lichfield exhibition may be its final public appearance, so I would urge anyone who hasn’t been already to come and see the painting before it’s too late.”

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.


  1. The Scribbler

    1st June, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    Rob – look, it is the idealised portrait of Lichfield you think still exists today.
    Buy it!

  2. Steve

    1st June, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    Fabricant gets £74k a year. Can’t we keep the painting in Lichfield and not have an MP.

    Don’t think we would notice the difference.