Why Turner brightens every Edinburgh January

It happens every January and it's always a delight; The Guardian newspaper is describing the annual showing of Edinburgh's thirty eight Turner watercolours. The pictures come out every January to enjoy the midwinter light, when natural daylight is at its weakest.

You can catch Turner's exhibition at the National Galleries of Scotland. It's taking place at the Royal Scottish Academy building on the Mound, from 1 to 31 January 2010. Admission is free.

Henry Vaughan, who left the works to the National Galleries in his will, insisted the delicate watercolours should only be shown in January to avoid damage from harsh sunlight.

Developments in gallery lighting mean the pictures could, at least theoretically, be shown all year round nowadays. But the Victorian tradition continues to this day. Many say it's a way of brightening up the new year in Edinburgh.

Admission to the exhibition is free. And the works span Turner's long career. They range from early wash drawings to atmospheric sketches of Continental Europe.

The geographic range is another delight. You can enjoy pictures ranging from Loch Coruisk here in Scotland to one of St Mark's Basilica in Venice.

Turner is known as 'the painter of light'. Born in 1738, he was a controversial figure in his day. But he is credited with elevating landscape painting to a new height. By the time he died in 1829, he was the foremost romantic landscape painter of his day.