Exhibitions: Late Turner: Painting Set Free

By Prendergast, Lara | The Spectator, September 27, 2014 | Go to article overview

Exhibitions: Late Turner: Painting Set Free


Prendergast, Lara, The Spectator


Late Turner -- Painting Set Free

Tate Britain, until 25 January 2015

Juvenilia is the work produced during an artist's youth. It would seem logical to think, therefore, that an artist's output during their old age would be classified as 'senilia'. Yet no such word exists.

But how else to classify the three blockbuster exhibitions this year that deal with Matisse, Turner and Rembrandt's late work? These titans produced some of their finest art during old age. The exuberance of Matisse's cut-outs are all the more astonishing given that they were produced not in the first bloom of life but rather in the dying embers of it. Rembrandt's late works -- on display at the National Gallery from October and discussed by Martin Gayford on p64 -- will include some of his most soulful paintings.

Late Turner at Tate Britain has a similar narrative. The bold vision in many of these paintings is startling given Turner's age -- 60 at the point the show starts -- and the ailments that came with it: poor sight, diabetes, tremors in his hands. Turner's critics dismissed his late paintings, proclaiming that they exposed the 'folly of old age'. Alas, The Spectator joined the throng too. It pointed out in 1840:

the strange means that Turner takes to represent his diseased views of nature... It is easy to ridicule Turner -- he is become a butt for every shaft: he beats Constable hollow at the argumentum ad absurdum : no painter living could caricature him so successfully as he does his own absurdities.

Yet these late paintings show Turner both engaging with and questioning the world around him. Many are meditations on the transiency of life. The sea -- Turner's greatest subject -- is a metaphor for the storms of old age.

That Turner occasionally veers into abstraction has given weight to the argument that he was a visionary. But such formal analysis tends to ignore Turner's reading of contemporary life. His late works examine the concerns of Victorian England, past, present and future. We see the legacy of the Napoleonic wars, the whaling industry, the industrial revolution.

The focus of this exhibition is not purely on the aesthetic -- it has a thesis. It hopes to reassess the view that Turner's last paintings transcend the era of their creation, and are best experienced as harbingers of modernism. Having said that, there is much pleasure to be had in losing yourself in these hydrous canvases, and no amount of sensible, matter-of-fact scholarship can diminish that.

Wonderful works such as 'Snow Storm -- Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth' and 'Returning From the Ball (St Martha)' are displayed. By necessity, a handful of less-than-terrific paintings are also included for historical backdrop. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Exhibitions: Late Turner: Painting Set Free
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.