Exhibition | Turner and Color

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on May 12, 2016


J.M.W. Turner, Bonneville, Savoy with Mont Blanc, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1803, oil on canvas, 92.1 x 123.2 cm (Dallas Museum of Art)

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Press release (via Art Daily) for the exhibition:

Turner et la couleur
Centre d’Art de l’Hôtel de Caumont, Aix-en-Provence, 4 May — 18 September 2016
Turner Contemporary, Margate, 8 October 2016 — 8 January 2017

Following the success of the exhibitions, Canaletto—Rome, London, Venice and The Collections of the Prince of Liechtenstein, the Hôtel de Caumont Centre d’Art in Aix-en-Provence presents a new exhibition, paying tribute to the work of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), undoubtedly one of the most iconic English painters of the 19th century. The exhibition entitled Turner and Colour was organized in partnership with the Turner Contemporary of Margate (England) and benefits from the remarkable generosity of the Tate Gallery London, which provided over thirty of the masterpieces bequeathed by the artist to the British nation. With over 120 watercolours, gouaches and oils on display coming from some of the most prestigious English and international museums—the Royal Academy of London, the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford, and the Dallas Museum of Art, among others—this exhibition also provides the public with an opportunity to discover previously unseen works coming from private collections, as well as some ensembles of watercolours shown together for the first time.

With its emphasis on colour—the very essence of Turner’s creation—the exhibition invites visitors to rediscover the life and work of this great artist from a perspective that had gone unexplored in most of the major retrospectives devoted to the artist to date. In an exhibit organized by chronology, theme and geography, the public can follow the evolutions in Turner’s palette.

The first canvases and watercolours show how the young self-taught painter explored the work of the great colourists of the past, from Rembrandt to Poussin and from Titian to Claude Lorrain, before perfecting a uniquely personal technique thanks to his keen observation of natural phenomena and their endless chromatic variations, painted from life, in the open air.

One of the rooms of the exhibition space recreates the atmosphere of the artist’s studio, allowing the public to gain a greater insight into his way of working through the palettes, pigments and tools on display. Turner’s interest for scientific and philosophical theories on colour, from Newton to Goethe, is evident in this room, as well as his avant-gardist use of pigments and unusual techniques. While his bold experimentation resulted in harsh criticism from his contemporaries, it also earned him the admiration of some of the greatest art connoisseurs of the time.

A large section of the exhibition is devoted to the artist’s travels throughout Europe and illustrates the variety and lyricism of his golden sunsets, his seascapes in hues of blue, and the remarkable landscapes that are typical of his oeuvre. If Venice proved to be an ideal subject, thanks to the luminous reflections of the water in the lagoon, Provence was no less fascinating for the artist. Attracted by the warm light and the blue skies of the region, he immortalized his landscapes in an ensemble of watercolours and sketches which find, deservedly so, an important place in this exhibition in Aix-en-Provence.

From the delicate tones that colour the sketches executed during his travels to the powerful hues that fill some of the most famous of his later canvases, colour in Turner’s work reveals, from room to room of the exhibition space, the public and private face of this controversial artist, who was at once a mysterious figure and an adventure-loving explorer. The public will be struck by the qualities of this prodigious colourist and talented connoisseur of the visual and emotional effects of colour, to the extent that Claude Monet once described him as knowing “how to paint with his eyes open.” The major impact of his oeuvre on later generations of artists cannot be contested and indeed would have an influence, some decades later, on the Impressionist movement.

Focusing on the painter’s widespread travels, part of the exhibition however is also devoted to the time Turner spent in Margate, on the Kent coast in England. Towards the end of his life, Turner would spend much time in this small coastal village, attracted by the unique quality of its light. In Margate, Turner created some of his most beautiful pictorial experiments, and it is here that the exhibition can be seen from 8 October 2016 to 8 January 2017 at the Turner Contemporary.

Key figures of the exhibition
• 133 items exhibited, including 19 oil paintings, 99 watercolours and works on paper, 1 portrait, and 1 caricature of Turner, as well as archives, books, and painting materials once belonging to the artist
• 36 works lent by the Tate Gallery, London

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