The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is proud to present, for the first time in Argentina, an exhibition of Joseph Mallord William Turner, with works from the Tate Collection of London. Curated by David Blayney Brown, it brings together 85 watercolours from various periods of his creative life. The show thus provides a survey of half a century of continuous output by this great English artist: from his early works at the end of the 18th century to the works of his maturity, created in the 1830s and ‘40s.
André Malraux said that every work that ushers in a new era provides a new version of the past. Turner’s romanticism is in this category; in the history of images it makes a cut which, by conceiving of nature as a lost paradise, consigns it to a realm of myth. In the process, a past returns which becomes a present only through his visions. And in his works Nature becomes a place in which history – human action – opens up, disruptively, and sets a new course, prompting us to read in it the cipher of a bygone time: that of a virtuous union with the natural world. Turner, however, relinquishes the desire for harmony between humanity and its creations. In his oeuvre, nature invariably triumphs, wreaking vengeance on its offspring.
Privileged witness to the English Industrial Revolution, he took it upon himself to be its secret gainsayer. Locomotives, ships, bridges, cities and crowds are his dramatic characters, destiny’s playthings as they are seized by the unleashed furies of the heavens and the seas. Bodies of water, fog, light, on the other hand, turn into the active protagonists of his canvases and watercolours. Through his oeuvre’s dreamlike realism and murky technique, Turner initiated a rupture in the West’s history of visual perception, one which the Impressionists would later return to and deepen.
Director. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
The Turner Bequest received by the British nation in 1856, five years after the death of the painter J.M.W. Turner in 1851, is one of the largest, most revealing collections of a single artist’s work in existence. Mostly housed today at Tate Britain, London, it is a museum within a museum, containing the vast hoard of his lifetime’s work Turner left in his house and studio. Besides 100 pictures he had kept to hang in a Turner Gallery he hoped would be created in his memory, the Bequest includes many oil sketches, studies and works in progress, and, most remarkably, tens of thousands of works on paper: watercolours, drawings and sketchbooks.
As one of the most gifted draughtsmen of his generation, and a superlative master of watercolour, Turner sold most of his finished and exhibited watercolours. What he kept for himself was different, but in no way inferior. It has a special character of its own, surely often closer to the artist’s true self than the work he made for the public. John Ruskin, one of the first to study the whole Bequest, observed how much of it had been made for Turner’s ‘own pleasure’. Intimate, expressive, experimental, it offers unique insights into the mind, imagination and private practice of a great Romantic painter.
This selection from the Bequest allows us to look over Turner’s shoulder as he progresses from conventional beginnings as a topographical and architectural draughtsman to embrace an extraordinary range of subject matter in a dynamic manner founded on a refined appreciation of light, colour, and atmospheric effects. Joined in this exhibition by a small group of finished watercolours to show their impact on Turner’s public output, these most personal of his works remain as fresh and immediate today as when they first appeared on paper.
David Blayney Brown
Produced and organized by the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, in association with Tate, London.
With the collaboration of the Asociación Amigos del Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Sponsored by Fundación Medifé y Galicia Èminent.
Supported by Knauf Argentina.
General admission: $100.- (100 Pesos argentinos)
Admission is free of charge only for residents of Argentina who are under 12 years of age, senior citizens, disabled, educators, students or part of an academic group visit.
Admission is free of charge all day on Tuesdays and after 6:45 pm on Wednesdays and Sundays.
All works of art in this exhibition belong to the Tate Collection, unless otherwise indicated.
All images are ©Tate London, 2018, unless otherwise specified.