What promises to be one of the outstanding shows of the year, Light into Colour: Turner in the South West, a major exhibition of works by JMW Turner, will go on show at Tate St Ives from 28 January – 7 May 2006. Following its showing in St Ives, the exhibition will travel to Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery.
J.M.W. Turner’s tours in the South West have never been the subject of an exhibition before. Turner toured Devon and Cornwall in 1811, returning to Devon in 1813 and 1814; what he accomplished in the region presents an exciting opportunity for Tate St Ives to bring his work to Cornwall for the first time in an exhibition curated by Turner expert, Professor Sam Smiles.
Included in the exhibition are outstanding works by the artist in all media - paintings, oil sketches, watercolours, drawings and notebooks - showing his different working methods. By reuniting sketches with finished works, the exhibition will provide a fascinating insight in to Turner’s creative processes. Works include a spectacular watercolour view of Plymouth, with an astonishing rainbow over the town, which is on loan from the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon; the watercolour of St Mawes, which shows details of the Cornish pilchard industry, from the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; and the watercolour Entrance to Fowey Harbour from a private collection in the USA.
The work produced in Cornwall and West Devon occurred at an important stage in Turner’s development. His maturity as an observer of English topography had secured him the commission to produce a series of watercolours for engraving as Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England. In the summer of 1811 he travelled round the coast of the West of England, from Dorset to Somerset recording what he saw. This trip provided him not merely with images of tranquil landscape and historic buildings; it was also a place of modern occupations, ranging from quarrying, lime manufacture and fishing to large-scale naval preparations in the war against Napoleon. Turner’s omnivorous gaze took stock of the interplay between contemporary life and historic environments in this region, putting the present into dialogue with the past. In doing so, he announced his arrival as a comprehensive witness of modern England. It is also arguable that the qualities of light he observed in the West Country prompted some early experiments, especially in his 1813 oil sketches, that laid the ground for his exploration of light in Italy in 1819 and afterwards.
This is an important year for Turner at Tate. Work is progressing on the definitive catalogue of Tate’s works on paper by the artist, including drawings, watercolours and sketchbooks, for which £1 million funding was announced last March. Tate also recently committed to funding for three years for a PhD Courtauld student in Turner studies. The production company, Illuminations is working on a Turner at Tate DVD to be sold in Tate shops and there are plans for it to be broadcast on Artsworld in April. A special display, Turner: The Sea, currently on view at Tate Liverpool until 23 April, is an opportunity to see works by Turner in Liverpool and brings together major maritime paintings with a series of rarely seen studies.
Opening hours: March-October daily 10.00-17.30, last admission 17.00
November-February, Tuesday-Sunday 10.00-16.30, last admission 16.00