Magazine article Tate Etc.

Alexandra Harris on JMW Turner's Petworth Park: Tillington Church in the Distance C1828

Magazine article Tate Etc.

Alexandra Harris on JMW Turner's Petworth Park: Tillington Church in the Distance C1828

Article excerpt

Have shadows ever fallen on grass quite like this? It's as if these deer are dabbling at the shallow edge of a river, each delicate body doubled by reflections that quiver and ripple across a smooth surface, improbably elongated and distinct. No, grass is not shiny - not for most of us - but to Turner's eye the whole park is luminous. There is actually a lake beyond the lawn, carefully positioned by Capability Brown to magnify the evening sun, but Turner dispenses with man-made garden features and makes the land itself a lake. We can almost hear it lapping at the terrace.

Walks in Petworth Park were a treat when I was growing up in West Sussex. My father pointed out that the great flat lawn was austere, that the summer grass was parched, that the tea room was expensive. But because I had a head full of pictures, I felt I was swimming through glowing air. I loved the stern 18th-century proportions, and I loved the fact that - because of Turner - they were always about to deliquesce. …

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