Late Turner: Painting Set Free – Tate Britain

I was supposed to be meeting a friend on Sunday, but she couldn’t make it, so I decided to go to a couple of exhibitions instead. The first was Late Turner: Painting Set Free at Tate Britain.

The exhibition covers J.M.W. Turner’s work between 1835 and his death in 1851. I adore Turner and thoroughly enjoyed looking at his later works, which give the lie to the concept that old age automatically has to mean settling down into a reactionary retirement. Turner continued to experiment and push the boundaries well into his last years, despite derision and misunderstanding from his contemporaries.

One of my favourite paintings is Rain, Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway (1844), which is just incredible, with the train rushing towards you, the sense of movement clear within the picture. I loved seeing it here. I also loved the Roman and classical-inspired pictures with their beautiful landscapes, as well as the watercolours of the burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons. Another favourite was Peace: Burial at Sea (1842) – I thought the light on the water was beautiful.

This exhibition is brilliant, and strongly recommended – but it can get crowded, so I would suggest trying to go at a quiet time if possible.

Turner and the Sea – National Maritime Museum

As a fan of the artist J.M.W. Turner, I went to visit the exhibition of his work at the National Maritime Museum, Turner and the Sea. I didn’t get time to look around the museum itself as I had to get back into central London, but I did manage to get a good look at the exhibition.

Turner is well known for his paintings of the sea and this exhibition beautifully showcases his best works – including The Fighting Temeraire, recently voted the nation’s greatest painting in a BBC poll – as well as some lesser-known works and sketches. There are also a number of works by other artists who inspired or were inspired by Turner.

Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape – Royal Academy of Arts

On Friday night I paid a visit to the Royal Academy of Arts to see the Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape exhibition. I love Turner and this was the main reason for my visit. In the end there wasn’t a great deal of his work on display, or that of the other named artists. A lot of the space was devoted to artists who paved the way or who were inspired by these three giants, so I felt the title of the exhibition was slightly misleading. Still, the paintings and artefacts displayed were well-chosen and the exhibition as a whole was small enough to be enjoyed without fatigue. Highlights for me included Turner’s Dolbadern Castle, while paintings by Gainsborough and Constable, artists I’d never paid much attention to in the past, appeared in a new light for me and I think I’d like to find out more about their work.