Turner While PJ and I were in London earlier this month, we visited the Tate Britain, a museum dedicated to British art from 1500 to the present. I was especially keen on seeing the museum’s exhibition of watercolors by J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). This is his 1798 self portrait to the right.

Part of the Turner exhibit was curated by David Hockney, himself a great watercolorist. The “Hockney on Turner Watercolours” exhibit features placards written by Hockney that express his opinions of Turner’s art, technique, etc. I first fell in love with Hockney’s work when I was a budding homosexual as an undergraduate at Texas A&M University. While in the same medium, Hockney’s work is so different from Turner’s that reading the former’s thoughts on the latter seemed like a very interesting prospect indeed. Here’s the kind of work Hockney does:


Based on this example, I’m sure anyone can see why a burgeoning homosexual might find Hockney’s work enjoyable! But I will also point out that I moved beyond the overtly sexual paintings and found myself enjoying Hockney’s larger oeuvre as well. So, I was excited that an artist I really like was going to comment on an artist that I had seen billed as one of England’s great masters.

While Hockney’s commentary was interesting, it wasn’t the aspect of the Tate Britain’s Turner collection that most impressed me. I’ll discuss what I liked about the exhibit after the jump.

I didn’t really know much about Turner’s watercolors before seeing the exhibit, so just seeing any of it was a real educational experience. What I came away with was a sense of how Turner developed as an artist over the course of his career. It’s been a rare treat thus far in my museum going career to have the opportunity to see so many works by one artist and from throughout his career.

I have to say that I didn’t particularly care for his early work. They seem rather pedestrian to me. This one, for example, doesn’t really thrill me. It’s “Ivy Bridge” and was painted in 1813.

But his later work is amazing. We had seen his “The Slave Ship,”which was painted in 1840, while we were in Boston.

I’ve already blogged about this painting, so I won’t write about it here, but you can see the emotional depth and power of this work compared to the previous one. (It goes without saying that it’s better to see the painting in person than to see it reproduced online.)

But my absolute favorite Turner painting is now “The Blue Rigi, Sunrise” painted in 1842:

Seeing this painting in the Tate Britain just about took my breath away: I paused in front of it for some time and came back to it a second time and paused some more. The Tate was able to purchase the painting earlier this year; it is no doubt now one of the crown jewels of their collection. I love the subtle, yet wide ranging color palette of this painting. Its soft sunrise compared to the just lingering shadows of night. To me, this painting is the epitome of English Romanticism.

Because he’s now one of my favorite artists, Turner is the hottie of the month. (I know — what honors are left to augment his fame now that he’s a hotm?!)