JMW Turner is one of my favourite artists. I was therefore very excited to hear that there was a to be an exhibition of his later works in London. It has taken me a while to get to see it, in fact it is in its last week, but I am glad to have made it. You can read other Turner post here
The Tate Britain and I have an interesting relationship in that in previous attempts to find it I have gotten ridiculously lost and ended up miles away and a taxi ride to get me there. This time I planned my journey Westminster and a walk down Millbank, very pleasant on a crisp January afternoon. As a tube dweller I forget how London links up and this is definitely the route I will be taking in the future.
My last trip to Tate Britain had been for an exhibition on Hogarth several years before. I was therefore happy to have a wonder around the gallery before heading to the exhibition. I was happy to stumble upon Henry Moore, Hogarth, Millais, Rossetti, Blake, Turner and Reynolds.
After a good wonder at ground level I made my way downstairs – the building reminded me of the Queens house in Greenwich. Art fund card holders get half price access to the exhibition. I also recommend the audio guide although not as sophisticated as the touch screen guides at the British Museum the information was definitely a bonus.
The level of people was just right, not too crowded or to empty, Friday afternoon is clearly a god time.
Along with art by Turner there were personal artefacts such as his death mask, eye glasses, and painting tools – palettes and knives and many of his note books. These items are personal and give an insight into the man who created some of the most moving and beautiful images to be put on canvass.
In the first room a picture by William Parrot of Turner on varnishing day at the RA touching up a picture in top hat and tails was charming. The artists death mask was humbling and it is clear to see that he did not have his dentures in when the mask was taken.
The second room was my favourite, as you entered you were met with Turners images of Venice. Turner went to Venice several times, and it was through the images of this magical Italian city that I feel in love with Turner. The image of The Bridge of Sighs, so moved me that I could feel the breeze and smell of the lagoona – would go on and buy a book mark and postcard of this image in the gift shop. I had always associated Turner with Italy but the exhibition brought to my attention that he had also visited and painted Germany and Switzerland.
Next there was a room with history paintings. Turner was of a generation of petinters that were educated to paint such images in there training. Some of them real some of them some of them painted after events. All of them Turner, whether in oil or water colour. One of my favourite images in this room was the Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons 16th October 1835. The image is moving, atmospheric and captures an important time in the history of Westminster.
Other images that spoke to me included the image of the train on Maidenhead bridge, this is personally important to me as I went to college in Maidenhead via train, although there was nothing that was recognisable as the Maidenhead of modern times it is nice to know that Turner was in places I know is comforting. It also reminds us that steam and trains were new and exciting. There is a story that Turner was one of the passengers on the train with Victoria and Albert from Slough to Paddington and that he was excited by the speed and steam of the journey.
Turner seems to take comfort or joy in capturing Water especially the sea – like most artists I guess its the light he loved. Sea monsters, whaling and ships are all depicted in room 5 as well as the picture Fire at The Tower of London 30th October 1841, again this image held my attention, it is a snap shot of a day in history.
The last room were his last works and unlike some of the pictures from the previous room that were experimental and less defined these works are like his earlier more detailed works. My favourite was Sunset from top of Rigi which has stunning lavender hues and tones.
The exhibition was a very enjoyable hour in the company of some of the most beautiful images in English art.
As the exhibition is in its last week there are bargains to be had in the gift shop, many items are half price (unfortunately not the catalogue). The last day is 25th January 2015. if you can get there do its absolutely wonderful.