As part of the research for Turner and Venice, the new major exhibition at Tate Britain, two oil paintings by J.M.W. Turner previously thought to be views of the Venetian lagoon have been re-identified.
Ian Warrell, curator of the exhibition at Tate Britain asserts in the catalogue to the exhibition that the more likely location for the two views is much closer to home – Portsmouth in Hampshire. As a result the work formerly listed as Festive Lagoon Scene, Venice c1840–5 is now renamed The Arrival of Louis-Philippe at Portsmouth 8 October 1844 c1844–5 and Procession of Boats with Distant Smoke, Venice c1845 is now re-titled The Disembarkation of Louis-Philippe at Portsmouth, 8 October 1844 c1844–5. The two paintings will still be included in the exhibition. (The section of the Turner and Venice catalogue in which Ian Warrell argues for the re-identification of the works is on the second page of this release).
Turner and Venice is the first major exhibition devoted to J.M.W .Turner’s seminal trips to Venice will open at Tate Britain on 9 October. The exhibition, sponsored by Barclays PLC, spans the twenty years between Turner’s first visit to Venice in 1819 and his last in 1840 and will bring together around fifty-five oil paintings, and over one hundred watercolours, as well as prints, maps and Turner’s Venice sketchbooks.
The exhibition is set out as a tour of Turner’s 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.
Festive Lagoon Scene, Venice c. 1840–45
Tate. Bequeathed by the artist 1856
New re-attributed caption:
The Arrival of Louis-Philippe at Portsmouth 8 October 1844 c. 1840–45 Previous captions:
Procession of Boats with Distant Smoke, Venice c. 1845
Tate. Bequeathed by the artist 1856
New re-attributed caption:
The Disembarkation of Louis-Philippe at Portsmouth, 8 October 1844c. 1844-5
The exhibition is curated by Ian Warrell, Collections Curator at Tate. The book Turner and Venice edited by Ian Warrell, published by Tate Publishing Ltd to accompany the exhibition at Tate Britain, is priced £29.99 in paperback.
Call Tate Publishing on 020 7887 8869
Turner and Venice
Sponsored by Barclays PLC
Tate Britain, Linbury Galleries
9 October 2003 – 11 January 2004 (Press View: Tuesday 7 October, 10.00)
Admission £8.50 (concessions £6)
For tickets please call 020 7887 8888
For information please call 020 7887 8008
Notes to Editor
Barclays’ sponsorship of Turner and Venice is the culmination of their two-year arts sponsorship Invest and Inspire in which Barclays has developed partnerships with four of Britain's leading arts institutions: the Royal National Theatre, The British Museum, the National Gallery and Tate Britain. Invest and Inspire aims to increase access to the arts for all and to demonstrate the benefits of imaginative business investment in the arts.Extract from the Epilogue to the catalogue Turner and Venice :
[The essay discusses some Monet views of Venice from 1908]
Just a couple of years earlier, the abstract nature of Turner’s preparatorywork had become apparent for the first time,when a group of previouslyunexhibited studies went on display at the Tate Gallery. One of these wasthe picture that has come to be known as ‘Procession of Boats, with DistantSmoke,Venice’ (fig.277), but which was originally called ‘The Burning of theShips’. Though eclipsed at the time by the incredible revelatory quality ofNorham Castle,Sunrise c.1845 (Tate) or the Evening Star c.1835–45 (NationalGallery, London), this work nevertheless contributed to the reappraisalof Turner’s later style in the early twentieth century. It was not linkedspecifically with Venice until 1966, when it was shown with its pair (fig.276)in Lawrence Gowing’s celebrated exhibition at the Museum of Modern Artin New York. The second painting was part of a cache of around seventycanvases that Kenneth Clark unearthed in the National Gallery’s basementduring the Second World War, which until then had not even beenaccessioned.Other Venetian pictures in this group included figs.168 and241–2, as well as fig.178, with its magically ghostly image of the Salute.The presence of identifiable topographical features in these last four worksgives good reason for identifying them as Venetian subjects.Yet for thetwo larger paintings, a link with Venice, while plausible, possibly says moreabout the myths that continue to envelop the floating city and Gowing’sdesire to enshrine Turner as the prophet of abstraction. Since 1966 hisinterpretation of the pictures has hitherto gone unchallenged, and hasin fact, been bolstered by recent writers.However, many of the details do not readily sustain the current connection.First, the size of the canvas is substantially larger than that used for thenineteen small Venetian pictures that Turner exhibited between 1840 and1846. This is an important point, for he imposed fairly rigid limitations onhimself with regard to his materials when working in series. In fact, thedimensions are the same as those of his standard mid-scale exhibitionpictures, and as the pair seems to date from the mid-1840s, they are closestin spirit and handling to the four canvases exploring the activities ofwhaling fleets.In contrast with the grey tonality of that group, the two ‘Venetian’ picturesare much warmer, and were enhanced by the application of red outlines tosuggest the presence of numerous figures.Looking closely at the pictures it is apparent that there is no architecturalelement, as if the eye scans a seaward horizon from the shore. Nevertheless,the presence of so many festive crowds indicates that the quayside is notfar away. Indeed, in one of them a line of soldiers in red uniform standspatiently to attention, while in the boats below people point eagerlytowards the distant smoke. These English troops are clearly an anomalyin a Venetian subject, but would not be so in one closer to home.A more appropriate identification of the pictures could, therefore, bethe arrival of the French king, Louis-Philippe, at Portsmouth on 8 October1844 (fig.275). One of Turner’s own letters confirms that he was present onthe occasion, and a group of studies have been related to the event.He had known Louis-Philippe many years earlier,when the Duc d’Orléans’sson lived in exile at Twickenham, but more recently, in 1838, the king hadawarded him a diamond-studded, gold snuff-box in return for a copy of hisPicturesque Views in England and Wales.In the autumn of 1844 Louis-Philippe was attempting to consolidate thealliance with Queen Victoria,which had begun the previous year with her visitto his château in Picardy. His arrival in Portsmouth in his paddle steamer,the Gomer, was one of several carefully staged pieces of pageantry that werewidely reported in the newspapers over the following week. To welcome himthe Queen’s guns were repeatedly fired, causing smoke to build up on theanchorage, and, according to the Illustrated London News, ‘the wholepopulation thronged the beach’, watching as with every ‘moment this sceneincreased in interest’.One of the noteworthy features reported in the press was the presence oftroops, ‘disposed in two lines, each three deep’, which stretched ‘from theRoyal Dock yard to the railroad terminus’, which was presumably the samedisplay of military decorum that impressed Turner. Though the steameritself does not appear in his paintings, he shows the flotilla of smallervessels containing local dignitaries that went out to greet Louis-Philippe.Moreover, the centrally placed boat in the Procession picture may, in fact,be intended to be that from which the king disembarked.This is all a long way from the interpretation of these pictures as thewraith-like mists of Venice, with parties of revellers drifting to and fromthe city across the Lagoon. But it demonstrates the way in which Turner’svision of Venice relies less on the specifics of place, and far more on whathe brought to the scene. Whether he was painting Venice or the Solent, heremained obsessed with the elusive qualities of light and colour, and it ishis restless exploration of these characteristics that continues to captivate.