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.

Cy Twombly, 'Quattro Stagioni: Autunno' 1993-5
Cy Twombly
Quattro Stagioni: Autunno 1993-5
Acrylic, oil, crayon and pencil on canvas
support: 3136 x 2150 x 35 mm
frame: 3230 x 2254 x 67 mm
Purchased with assistance from the American Fund for the Tate Gallery and Tate Members 2002© The estate of Cy Twombly

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.

Cy Twombly Untitled (Sunset) 1986
Cy Twombly, Untitled (Sunset) 1986
Cy Twombly Untitled (Sunset) 1986
Cy Twombly, 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.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Peace - Burial at Sea' exhibited 1842
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Peace - Burial at Sea exhibited 1842
Oil on canvas

Claude Monet, Saint-Georges Majeur 1908 (San Giorgio Maggiore)
Claude Monet Saint-Georges Majeur 1908 (San Giorgio Maggiore)

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!


You have asked for comments from me about my recent visit to Tate Liverpool to see "Turner, Monet, Twombly". My overriding impression was how much more profound Turner and Twombly's paintings were in comparison to Monet's. Notwithstanding his damaged eyesight, his colours were often hideous, his subject matter banal and his brushwork functional, if not cursory to say the least. It is unclear to me (and others, apparently) which of Turner's paintings Monet will have seen so I think it is idle to speculate on the extent of Turner's influence on him. At heart, I don't really think he belongs in the same exhibition as Turner and Twombly. While I was happy, at last, to have an overwhelming reason to visit Tate Liverpool, I fail to see why such an important exhibition as this cannot be brought to London at a later date.

I should also like to make a comment about your policy of banning photography in your galleries. Whilst in the Turner, Monet, Twombly exhibition, I was very taken by the view of the docks from a window in the one of the exhibition galleries. I have been visiting the Tate for long enough to know that you forbid photography of exhibits and had made no attempt, nor dreamt of doing so, to photograph any of the paintings on display. As I was photographing the view outside, a gallery assistant approached my companion and I and told us photography was prohibited on the gallery. When my companion responded by saying that we were aware of that and that I was not photographing an exhibit she informed us that it was a total ban on photography of anything! I think that this was unneccesarily high-handed and an insensitive application of "the rules" considering that I was most pointedly not photographing an exhibit. Does the Tate claim copyright for the outside world as well? What was really annoying about this was that when we visited the sculpture gallery on the second(?) floor a visitor was photographing every other exhibit with his iphone. Needless to say he went unchallenged, even by one of your guides who was explaining the Patrick Caulfield painting at the time, next to the Warhol soup can painting the gentleman was photographing. Obviously I have issues with Tate about the policy on photography and wish you could take a more enlightened view such that which is applied at The Courtauld Gallery, at least in their permanent collection, and also in the print room at The British Museum where no objection is raised as long as no flash or tripod is used. i do wish that the gallery assistants could be encouraged to use more common sense and judgement when enforcing the photography rule. I also wish that their walkie-talkie radios could be silenced, especially at Tate Britain and Tate Modern, where they frequently burst into life quite inappropriately for an art gallery. Is providing an earpiece beyond the tate's budget?

Hi I firstly wanted to say 'Thank you!'. I found the exhibition beautiful, challenging and interesting. The staff were helpful and friendly. The 'curatorial' input was just right - supportive, clearly themed but not dictatorial. The audio guide really added to the experience for me as a bit of an art 'newbie'.

I had expected to struggle with Cy Twombly's work - I tend to find more recent art a bit self-referrential and excluding. Without the guide and the booklet (and the display copy of the catalogue!) I think I would have found it easy to skip these more challenging works. As it was I found that I could 'get' what was happening in each work and see the links between these works and those by Turner and Monet.

I'd forgotten that Monet's works were so physically beautiful - the texture and irridiscence of the paint which, because there were few 'stand 10 feet away' barriers, could actually be seen and appreciated. Colour reproductions of Monet, no matter how well done, really don't work, do they?

Three and a half of the best hours I've spent, anywhere, this year. Thanks again.