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23 Jan 2020

J.M.W. Turner: Watercolors from Tate

Mystic Seaport Museum

Reviewed by Kathleen C. Stone

An artist's quick sketch can convey a feeling that a full-blown painting lacks. It's more immediate, less fussed over. The nearly one hundred watercolors that make up "J.M.W. Turner: Watercolors from Tate" are cases in point.

Some are on-the-spot observations of a place, notably Venice, Lake Lucerne, and Chamonix. Others are studies of color, light and weather - technical practice for more substantial oil paintings that Turner would later exhibit and sell. He was a technical guy, after all, a Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy who lectured with examples drawn to mathematical scale. But the watercolors, in their lack of precision, are something else. He finger-painted and brush-painted to achieve effects, sometimes gossamer light, other times smears. He used color, bold and subtle.

In Coastal Terrain (c.1830-45), the terrain itself is indistinct. His real subject is mist, sky, filtered light, and reflection. Challenging himself to record the ephemeral, he transmits a feeling for that which is fleeting.

Exhibition J.M.W. Turner: Watercolors from Tate link
Start date 05 Oct 2019
End date 23 Feb 2020
Presenter Mystic Seaport Museum link
Venue 75 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic, CT, USA map
Image J.M.W. Turner, Coatstal Terrain, c. 1830-45, watercolor on paper, 221 x 271 millimeters, Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856, © Tate 2019

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