J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free: At The de Young

My first experience with Turner in the wild was in 1986 at the Tate Museum in London on my first journey out of the United States. I specifically made London the first stop on my trip just to see the Turners – and the Rothkos – at the Tate Museum. They did not disappoint and have affected my own work throughout my art career.

The exhibition at the de Young also did not disappoint. The show was made up of many paintings that he had done from 1835 until his death in 1851 – some of his last works. They were presented in a way that surrounded each piece with a lot of space, on dark walls which allowed all focus to be on the work. Because I was so familiar with Turner’s larger oil paintings, albeit, not the ones in this show, the draw here for me was his watercolors. Light washes of color, with little details drawn in with graphite – many done as “sample work” to be presented when seeking commissions, and most done while he was traveling to places like Venice or Switzerland. They were definitely inspirational and almost awe-inspiring.

Below are images from this morning. The galleries were crowded and somehow I thought the people would make interesting subject matter for photographs. The ocean image used as the feature image came from a wall sized (life-sized) video that was the first thing I saw as I walked into the exhibition space. It gave the sense of a moving Turner painting, or maybe a sense of how Turner saw the world. It was mesmerizing and I’m sorry that I did not catch the credit for that piece.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) was one of the greatest British artists of the nineteenth century. His paintings are revered for their spectacular effects of light and color, and have influenced generations of artists. His late work, created between 1835 and 1850, articu­lated a radical vision that was heedless of public reaction, and explored such themes as the rise and fall of civilizations, the natural and industrial worlds, and religious and cultural mythology. — de Young

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J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free
Dates: Up until September 20, 2015

The de Young Museum
Golden Gate Park
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118

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