Turner paintings to vie with rivals and masters at Tate

Wed May 6, 2009 10:11am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The works of English Romantic landscape painter JMW Turner will vie with contemporary rivals and preen next to those of the old masters he hoped to surpass in a new exhibition at London's Tate Britain gallery.

"Turner and the Masters" will bring together about 100 works of historical significance from around the world, including artists such as Canaletto, Claude, Cuyp, Poussin, Rembrandt, Rubens, Ruisdael, and van de Velde.

The exhibition will be the first to look at the work of Turner (1775-1851) in the company of the greatest painters in the preceding history of western art.

"It will reveal his debts and rivalries in exciting, even unpredictable, ways, and explore his reputation as one of the greatest painters of landscape in the European tradition," the Tate said in a press statement.

The exhibition will pair Turner's works with major paintings by his predecessors. There will also be pairings with paintings by Turner's most important contemporaries such as John Constable and Richard Bonington.

The exhibition aims to show how Turner's responses to other artists were both acts of homage and a sophisticated form of art criticism, designed to demonstrate his understanding of great art and his ability to equal and even outshine the most celebrated exponents of the landscape tradition.

For the first time since they were shown together at the Royal Academy exhibition in 1832, Turner's Helvoetsluys will be united with Constable's Opening of Waterloo Bridge.

When the works were originally shown Turner famously added a red buoy to his seascape during the "varnishing" period before the exhibition opened, apparently in order to compete with the bright reds of Constable's adjacent work. Constable reportedly told a friend "Turner has been here and fired a gun."

"It was Turner's strategy, almost uniquely within the history of European art, to enter into direct competition with artists both past and present, whom he considered as worthy rivals to his own fame," the Tate said.   Continued...