Turner takes on old masters in new London show

Mon Sep 21, 2009 10:28am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - J.M.W. Turner is widely accepted as one of Britain's greatest painters. A new exhibition shows he was also one of its most competitive.

"Turner & The Masters" at Tate Britain in London lines the British master of light up against some of the leading names of European art including Rembrandt and Titian, and leaves the visitor to decide whether he is worthy of the comparison.

Turner invited such scrutiny by deliberately interpreting and re-working old masters, whom he not only sought to match but also to surpass.

In 1832, Turner tried to upstage his great rival John Constable at the Royal Academy exhibition.

During the last-minute "varnishing" period just prior to the show's opening, Turner added a red buoy to his grayish seascape "Helvoetsluys," apparently to compete directly with the colors of Constable's adjacent "The Opening of Waterloo Bridge."

Constable, who labored over his work for a decade, is quoted telling a friend: "He has been here and fired a gun."

Tate unites the works for the first time in over 175 years, and brings together some 100 pictures from collections around the world for its show, which runs from September 23-January 31, 2010.

Tate Britain links Turner's fierce ambition -- he once proclaimed "I am the great lion of the day" -- to his working-class roots.   Continued...