Turner's "evolution" at heart of Edinburgh show

Wed Mar 25, 2009 11:40am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Ian MacKenzie

EDINBURGH (Reuters Life!) - English romantic artist Joseph Turner set out on a life-changing visit to Italy with a sword concealed in the shaft of his umbrella to fight off brigands at the turbulent start of the 19th century.

The results of the artist's visit in 1802 during a brief break in the Napoleonic wars and his love affair with Italy over six subsequent visits are charted in a stunning exhibition, "Turner and Italy," opening on Thursday at Scotland's national gallery in Edinburgh.

The gallery's major spring exhibition runs to June 7, to be followed by another major show titled "The Discovery of Spain," ranging through Goya to Picasso, from mid-July to October in parallel with Edinburgh's International Festival of the arts.

Turner (1775-1851) became a "radical" in his artistic progress and use of color with a huge influence over the development of 19th century romantic art.

"Turner opened up the possibilities for 19th century artists in such a dramatic way, taking a classical tradition which was in danger of become almost constrained in a straitjacket, suddenly showing the liberating possibilities of an inherited classical tradition focusing on -- in his mind -- Italy and all things Italian," national galleries Director-General John Leighton told Reuters at a preview.

The exhibition's curator Christopher Baker said Turner had moved from a conventional "topographical tradition" as a young artist into what could be described as a "world of fantasy."

"He is collating images of Rome and Venice, in particular Rome, which are fantastic and inventive, he's compressing time and bringing together lots of different views in the picture," Baker said.

Works include the extraordinary ""Rome from the Vatican" and the hazy depictions of Venice in which color is at the core of the paintings. Baker said that while "abstract" was a modern term, it was a fair way to described the artist's use of color.   Continued...

<p>Sotheby's employees hold Turner's "Pope's Villa at Twickenham" at Sotheby's auction house in central London April 24, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico</p>