‘Turner: Travels, Light and Landscape’ at the Lady Lever

Light Towers of La Heve
Light Towers of La Heve

Less than a year after Kirkby Gallery put on the Travels with Turner exhibition, Liverpool’s Lady Lever Art Gallery is to stage the exhibition Turner: Travels, Light and Landscape, displaying over thirty watercolour paintings and prints of the great British landscape artist JMW Turner (1775 – 1851).

Celebrated as ‘the painter of light’, throughout his artistic career Turner proclaimed the supremacy of landscape painting over all other forms. This belief was convincingly argued by the artist through his genius with his brush and colour. As the celebrated art critic John Ruskin said, no painter could better ‘stirringly and truthfully measure the moods of nature.’

The Lady Lever exhibition will be structured chronologically with the first section (1794-1819) featuring Turner’s early classics such as ‘Wells Cathedral’ and ‘Whalley Abbey.’ The second section, where the emphasis of the exhibition is thought to lie, covers the years 1816-1833. These were the years when Turner’s paintings reached an intense fervour as he began to depict the evolving English landscape. A model of this period is his painting ‘Dudley’, displaying the industrial revolution consuming the eponymous small town. Though Dudley bathes in sunlight, in the background of the picture stand great black mills, billowing apocalyptic smoke. A church and a castle lie neglected, displaying an ensuing redundancy in the value of tradition and faith. In literature, Turner’s contemporaries in the 19th century such as Dickens, George Eliot and Mrs Gaskell, were to express a similar regret at the loss of what was and fear as the country plunged through coal and fire into the unknown.

Margate Harbour
Margate Harbour

Green and Pleasant Land

In the 21st century, at the London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in 2012, Danny Boyle’s production echoed the sentiments of these artists when he had the ‘pleasant pastures’ that bedded the stadium floor ripped open by ‘dark Satanic Mills.’ The images created by Turner continue to hit a chord today, posters and prints of the artist, a selection available here, remaining consistently popular. Indeed, with the cries of objection heard today over HS2 tearing up the English countryside, it appears that not only the beauty of Turner’s paintings but their message as well, is of lasting appeal. With the exhibition opening this February, at least we can face the future with something to look forward to.

’Turner: Travels, Light and Landscape’ will run from 14 February – 1 June 2014, and will be accompanied by an array of workshops and lectures inspired by the artist. See here for more details.

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