British artist Turnbull mellows with posthumous show

Fri Mar 8, 2013 5:15am EST
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By Clare Hutchison

BAKEWELL (Reuters) - British artist William Turnbull, a figurehead of the post-war modernist movement, is finally embracing the mainstream four months after his death with an exhibition that spans the indoor and outdoor spaces of one of England's grandest stately homes.

A selection of works by Turnbull, known for his sculptures in bronze as well as abstract expressionist paintings, will be showcased at Chatsworth House, a 16th century estate in the Peak District, central England, from March 10 to June 30.

"William Turnbull at Chatsworth" charts the evolution of Turnbull's work over four decades and documents his take on themes such as the head, totems and primitive tools.

Scottish-born Turnbull, who died in November aged 90, was little known to the general public thanks to his reluctance to embrace celebrity and a row with a powerful U.S. critic which cast him adrift from the international art scene.

His supporters hope the show, and a documentary on his influence due to be broadcast by the BBC next week, will finally earn Turnbull the popularity they believe he deserves.

"It's the establishment validation that he's never had," said Alex Turnbull, William's son, who co-curated the show.

"There is no creative person who doesn't like it when people like their work, you can't be a punk all your life. You have to mellow out and Bill did. He would have loved this, it is a great shame that he couldn't see it."

The exhibition begins in dramatic fashion. Visitors take a winding route through some of Chatsworth's elegant Regency-style rooms before the vibrant colors of Turnbull's abstract oil painting "Head" jump into view at the end of a long corridor.   Continued...

The shadows of a tour guide are cast on the wall next to the sculpture "Mujer" by Scottish artist William Turnbull during a media presentation of the sculpture exhibit "Forest of Sculptures, Collection Simon Spierer" in Madrid May 21, 2009. REUTERS/Susana Vera