The EY Exhibition: Late Turner


There’s a whole panorama of interests going on in Turner’s work. He was a modern artist but, at the same time, he didn’t abandon the interests that he’d had all through his life. The last period was a wonderful synthesis of everything that had gone before. We thought that it was high time that we did a special exhibition about the last phase of Turner’s life. It’s really the first comprehensive exhibition of that period of Turner’s work, that’s ever been done. We start this exhibition in 1835 which was when Turner turned 60. In the early Nineteenth Century it was thought that once you were 60 you were really on the edge of senility and you were beginning to lose it. At the time, critics didn’t really know what to make of many of his works they were so different to those of his contemporaries. If people didn’t like his work it was all too easy for them to say, well actually, this is because he was losing his marbles, because he was losing his faculties. Turner went to Switzerland six times over the course of his life and five of those times were in this late period The exhibition throws a spotlight on Venice. He was utterly beguiled by the light, the colour, the culture and the social scene as well as its history so it had the full array of subjects that Turner loved to depict in his work. What shows through with Turner’s painting technique at this time is that he has a supreme confidence in the handling of his paint. When you are able to look at artists’ brushes and palette knives then you can really understand which instruments he was using to create all these incredible different textures. It’s really delightful to see an object which he would have held and used in his studio. One of the strong features of the exhibition is a return time and time again to mythological and historical subject matter and there’s a room at the heart of the exhibition in which history paintings are placed alongside paintings of up to date contemporary subject matter. The pictures we have are a huge panorama of time and, perhaps for an artist who’s getting older and who’s thinking about the future and his legacy, these paintings are full of meaning. I think in many ways this is the most fascinating period of Turner’s career. This is the artist as a master. One can either see Turner as completely outside his time or one can see him as very old-fashioned but what is completely new and unlike whatever any other artist is doing is the handling of his paint. It’s him, it’s unique.

6 thoughts on “The EY Exhibition: Late Turner

  1. Really sad of not seeing this exhibit. It must have been very unique. Always combine my private Wanderlust with Turners water colours if Mosel and Rhine river. And sometimes his view dissolves through my own eyes. Unique, indeed!

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