One of the best things about working in an art museum is getting to spend time with the art works that you love. For many years now I have had posters of Cy Twombly’s Quattro Staggioni on my wall at home, but from 22 June the real deal will be on show at Tate Liverpool as part of the upcoming exhibition Turner Monet Twombly: Later Paintings.
JMW Turner, Claude Monet and Cy Twombly are all incredibly famous in their own rights, radical painters of their time. Even Twombly, probably the least well-known of the three, has been celebrated with several major retrospectives around the world, as well as being one of my personal favourites.
I have been working on this exhibition with a guest curator, Jeremy Lewison, who, as former Director of Collections, has a long history of working with Tate, and has been researching this project for several years. Twombly sadly passed away last year, but we were fortunate enough to have been able to discuss the exhibition with him, and even receive some suggestions for works to include in the show, such as Untitled (Sunset) 1986.
With each artist coming from a different century, and certainly in the mid-career work painting in very different styles, the combination of the three might at first seem a little odd. Yet the influence of Turner on Monet has been well-noted, particularly Monet’s trip to London in 1870 when he first saw Turner’s work in the National Gallery. We also know from discussions with Twombly that he owned letters written by both Turner and Monet, as he liked to collect letters written by artists in whom he had a marked interest.
However, this show is not just about influence. We are really focussing on their later work, bringing together over 60 masterpieces made during the last 20-30 years of their lives. In these works the similarity of style, and more importantly themes and subjects, become evident. Renewed interests in nature, an awareness of mortality – particularly expressed through the imagery of boats, and a fascination with creating atmosphere using paint are just some of the concurrent themes found in the work of all three artists.
Structuring the exhibition around these themes rather than chronologically will enable an enthralling conversation between the works of three artists who could never have met. I hope that many of you will be able to come and witness this first hand – there is no substitute for the originals!