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J.M.W. Turner: Watercolors from Tate

October 5, 2019 - February 23, 2020

Tate: "The Artist and His Admirers," 1827, J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) ©Tate, London 2018

Tate: “The Artist and His Admirers,” 1827, J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) ©Tate, London 2018

In partnership with Tate, London, from October 5, 2019, to February 23, 2020, Mystic Seaport Museum presents J.M.W. Turner: Watercolors from Tate, a major exhibition drawn from the renowned Turner Bequest of 1856, the vast legacy of art donated to Great Britain by J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), which resides today in Tate Britain. Mystic Seaport Museum is the only North American venue for Watercolors from Tate, which brings together 92 watercolors, four oil paintings, and one of the artist’s last sketchbooks.

The exhibition spans the entirety of Turner’s long career and, by focusing on the artist’s watercolors, provides insight into the private visionary behind the public figure. The viewer will see Turner’s watercolor practice evolve from aide to memory to a way of thinking with his brush.

Nicholas Bell, senior vice president for Curatorial Affairs at Mystic Seaport Museum, says, “Watercolor has always been central to Turner’s art and its inspiration to others. Perhaps surprisingly for a North American audience, which has always had greater access to his oils, the watercolors have long competed in Britain with their weightier oil counterparts for museum-goers’ affections. What’s so marvelous about this gathering of loan works is that its very size makes it possible to follow Turner’s career trajectory in all its complexity.”

Watercolors from Tate brings together luminous landscapes and atmospheric seascapes, architectural and topographical sketches, travel drawings, and even a number of intimate interior views. Some watercolors were completed in the studio; others, sketched en plein air. A number appear to have been dashed off on tiny slips of paper; others are finished works, conceived for display, incorporating ink, pencil and gouache. The earliest work on view is a romantic scene of a gorge painted in 1791 when Turner was 17 years old; the latest, painted 55 years later and exhibited at the Royal Academy five years before the artist’s death, is Whalers (Boiling Blubber) Entangled in Flaw Ice, Endeavoring to Extricate Themselves (1846).

The book Conversations with Turner: The Watercolors, which is edited by Bell, accompanies Watercolors from Tate – an exhibition not to be missed.

Image above left: Tate: Funeral of Sir Thomas Lawrence: A Sketch from Memory, exhibited 1830, J.M.W. Turner (1775 –1851 ) © Tate, London 2018.