What is ‘Varnishing Day’? ‘Varnishing Day’ was a special event that took place at the Royal Academy of Art in London. Officially it was the day in which artists could varnish their paintings before the official opening of the Summer Exhibition. In reality, it was also a private viewing of the exhibition, in which artists, journalists and celebrities could meet and discuss the paintings before the exhibition opened to the public. According to reports, the famous William Turner, watercolorist and oil painter, not only used Varnishing Day to varnish or put finishing touches to his works but also to significantly alter or even finish incomplete paintings. The Summer Exhibition has run every year since 1769. During the 1800s, the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition was a fashionable event in which many people attended to be seen by others, rather than to study and enjoy the artwork. Art critics such as Ruskin would then publish their opinions on the paintings which, at the time, were hugely influential in swaying public opinion.
My daughter inspecting the Varnish work on the Mars series which is heading to Portland Maine, this summer.