Turner in seascape battle at Tate Britain

Turner Dutch Boats in a Gale

AN EXHIBITION has just opened at Tate Britain in London exploring the work of one of Britain’s most famous artists. Turner and the Masters, on to 31 January 2010, displays a selection of paintings by JMW Turner (1775-1851) alongside related works by the old masters and contemporaries he strove to imitate, rival and surpass.

Turner Dutch Boats in a Gale large
J M W Turner’s Dutch Boats in a Gale exh. RA 1801 (Private Collection)

AN EXHIBITION has just opened at Tate Britain in London exploring the work of one of Britain’s most famous artists. Turner and the Masters, showing to 31 January 2010, displays a selection of paintings by J M W Turner (1775-1851) alongside related works by the old masters and contemporaries he strove to imitate and surpass. This stunning exhibition brings together over 100 pictures of supreme historical significance from more than 30 other artists – including Canaletto, Claude, Titian, Poussin, Rembrandt, Rubens, Willem van de Velde and Constable – and it is a great opportunity to compare these works.

Turner built his reputation as an oil painter by challenging the works of old masters, deliberately producing paintings that could hang in their company. One example, featured in Tate Britain’s new exhibition, is Willem van de Velde the Younger’s A Rising Gale c1672 (Toledo Museum of Art) for example, which is being displayed alongside Turner’s companion piece Dutch Boats in a Gale exh. RA 1801 (Private Collection).

van der Velde A Rising Gale
Willem van der Velde’s A Rising Gale c1672 (Toledo Museum of Art)

In 1800 the Duke of Bridgewater commissioned Turner to paint a pendant (a painting intended to hang with its counterpart as a pair) to his van de Velde painting A Rising Gale – Turner’s companion piece is a competitive response to the earlier master’s work. Not only did Turner make his pendant larger but, by reversing van de Velde’s composition and introducing more contrasts between light and shade, he gave his own design a greater sense of movement, heightening the drama arising from the fact that his ships look to be set on a collision course. Both paintings hung together in the Bridgewater Gallery until 1804 and then were separated. They are being reunited here at Tate Britain for the first time in over 170 years so you can decide which is your favourite. Open daily: 10am-5.50pm (and to 10pm on first Friday of the month). Admission: £12.50. Tel: (020) 7887 8888 or go to: www.tate.org.uk

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