Turner & the Masters Exhibition; Tate Britain, London

It really doesn’t need much of an excuse to get lots of people looking at a Turner exhibition. As one of the most recognised, and loved, of British artists, you know that you will struggle to get a glimpse of his more iconic paintings upon entering any exhibition. This exhibition at London’s Tate Britain is arranged to display Turner’s working engagement with the great masters from throughout the centuries, along with his intense rivalry with his contemporaries.

We are all familiar Turner’s later style, but murmers of disgruntled fans arose when greeted with his earlier, more ‘classical’, style. Furthermore, the arrangement of his works beside those most composititionally similar to the Masters, including Titian and Rembrandt, meant many viewers felt compelled to conjure such intelligent comments as: ‘Well, he wasn’t all that original, then was he?’ or ‘I prefer the colours in that one.’ Unhelpful, no doubt, and not the intention of the exhibition as a whole. The subtlety of the layout did improve towards the analysis of Turner’s connection with his fellow artists of the time. A charming story of his addition to a painting of a small red buoy to bring life, and show up, Constable’s red-embued companion piece at one showing sticks in my mind.

Bring them out again and again for any excuse. Simply the act of looking, and considering this artistic institution of comparison was certainly brought out, and we were forced to consider the concept of the ‘master’ and what it means. But please never again to hear the words ‘You could put that picture on the wall in your living room and every time you walk past it you would notice a new detail. That’s real art.’


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