Some of the most iconic images painted by J.M.W. Turner have returned to the UK for a new exhibition at Tate Britain. Turner and Venice, sponsored by Barclays PLC, opens on Thursday 9 October and includes several works not seen in a British public gallery in over a century.
Among the highlights of the exhibition are some exceptional loans from American collections. Principle among these are several loans from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, of which Venice (the Dogana and San Giorgio) (1834) has not been on view publicly in the UK since 1854, and Approach to Venice (exhibited 1844) is displayed here for the first time since being shown at the Royal Academy in 1903.
Another rare loan to the exhibition is the extraordinary The Grand Canal, Venice (exhibited 1837) which was last on public display in London in 1899 at the Guildhall and has been in the collection of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California since 1922. The Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin, Ohio has generously lent Ducal Palace, Dogano, with part of San Giorgio (exhibited 1841) a stunning work not seen publicly in the UK since 1894. Numerous major Turner works in the exhibition have not been seen here in a generation, including the seminal late masterpiece, Campo Santo, Venice (exhibited 1842) borrowed from the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio.
The exhibition also takes the chance to reunite works that were exhibited as pairs when Turner showed them at the Royal Academy. Chief among these are the two paintings exhibited in 1840 and reunited here for the first time since then - Tate’s Venice, the Bridge of Sighs and Venice, from the Canale della Giudecca, Chiesa di S.Maria della Salute from the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Turner and Venice is the first major exhibition devoted to J.M.W. Turner’s seminal trips to the serene city. It spans the twenty years between Turner’s first visit to Venice in 1819 and his last in 1840 and brings together around fifty-five oil paintings, and over one hundred watercolours, as well as prints, maps and Turner’s Venice sketchbooks. Two of the sketchbooks are able to be viewed digitally in a special touch-screen display.
The exhibition also explores the influence of Venetian masters and sheds light on the relationship between the work of Turner and that of his contemporaries but it is above all devoted to Turner’s own paintings and his luminous watercolours, set out as a tour of his Venice. Beginning with the monumental centre around the Doge’s Palace and the Basilica of San Marco, the succeeding rooms draw the visitor deeper into the city’s topography. This sequence culminates with a series of views of the Lagoon in which the city becomes merely a component part in Turner’s meditations on light, colour and the reflective surfaces of water and stone.
The exhibition is curated by Ian Warrell, Collections Curator at Tate. A fully-illustrated catalogue by Ian Warrell, with contributions from Jan Morris, David Laven and Cecilia Powell will be available (280pp, £25 special exhibition price).