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The EY Exhibition: Late Turner – Painting Set Free
December 26, 2014
For most artists turning sixty marks the point at which perhaps it’s time to start slowing down and maybe thinking about writing an autobiography. Yet this exhibition of Turner’s late work starts in 1835, the year he turned sixty. Remarkably the ageing artist was still shocking his audiences by experimenting with new formats such as his square canvases and flying in the face of tradition in his techniques, processes and materials. At a time when he was expected to be slowing down, Turner was speeding up.
The remaining 15 years of his career are impressive ones, filling Tate Britain’s gallery space with 150 works gathered from the UK and abroad; a mixture of large-scale oil paintings alongside drawings, prints and watercolours that show Turner’s working and handling of colour from sketch to final painting. In these last years Turner seems to have been at his most experimental, perhaps age had set him free, as the title of the exhibition suggests, because by this point Turner was painting for himself and for his art which was at the time mocked and ridiculed.
Turner’s square canvases are a shining example of this; radical and ahead of their time they were subject to a torrent of abuse from the media of his age. A format in which Turner had never worked before his sixties, these square paintings are displayed together within this exhibition for the first time, thanks to important loans from the Kimbell Art Museum, USA and the Ulster Museum, Belfast.
‘It is wonderful for us to be able to show these works together in a single room for the first time, almost like an exhibition within an exhibition. […] They contain some of his most dazzling displays of colour, audacious handling of paint and challenging iconographies.’ David Blayney Brown, co-curator.
For students of Turner and general art lovers alike this exhibition definitely brings something new to the story of this Master of light, in this, the gallery that houses the world’s largest collection of Turner’s work already. For those not familiar with The Clore Gallery which resides on the same floor as the Late Turner exhibition; it houses a constantly changing display of the Turner Collection. A permanent Tate Britain collection it includes the Turner Bequest (which itself includes all works left in Turner’s studio upon his death), comprising 300 oil paintings and many thousands of sketches, watercolours and 300 sketchbooks. Alongside the Late Turner exhibition a visit to the Clore gallery will give you the most complete picture of this remarkable artist imaginable. As if this wasn’t enough, within the Clore gallery resides a last little gem – a display of colour wheels by Olafur Eliasson, made in response to the Late Turner Exhibition. This is one Tate excursion not to be missed by those with even a passing fondness for the work of J.M.W. Turner.
The EY Exhibition: Late Turner – Painting Set Free is on at the Tate Britain until the 25th of January 2015. For more information go to www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/ey-exhibition-late-turner-painting-set-free
For more information on the Turner Collection in the Clore Gallery go to www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/display/turner-collection
For more information on Olafur Eliasson’s Turner Colour Experiments display go to www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/display/olafur-eliasson-turner-colour-experiments
Maxine Kirsty Sapsford, Arts Editor