Press Release

BP British Art Displays: Turner/Rothko

In March 2009, Tate Britain will bring together two of the world’s most iconic and influential painters, J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851) and Mark Rothko (1903–1970). As part of the BP British Art Displays, this unique display of works from the Tate collection will be on show from 23 March to 26 July 2009.

The links between these two artists are well documented. After visiting an exhibition of Turner’s works at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1966, Rothko reportedly commented that ‘This man Turner, he learnt a lot from me’. A few years later, Tate’s renowned Turner Bequest was a major influence on Rothko’s decision to donate nine of his Seagram murals to the Collection.

For the first time, Tate Britain visitors will be able to move directly from the immersive, meditative environment of the so-called ‘Rothko Room’ into a display of Turners from the 1966 MoMA exhibition that Rothko attended. These will include a key selection of loose, experimental watercolours, such as A Pink Sky above a Grey Sea c.1822, and Storm Clouds: Sunset with a Pink Sky ?1833, which demonstrate the striking affinity between these two great painters.

Six works from Rothko’s Seagram series will be on show, as will a selection of other works by the artist. These will be accompanied by a series of rooms that focus on correlating aspects of Turner’s work, such as the expansive late seascapes in which Turner’s images are reduced to their bare essentials, and the unusual group of darkened interior scenes he painted in the early 1830s.

Stephen Deuchar, Director, Tate Britain said: ‘Tate Britain has always presented different histories of British art, exploring its interaction with art from around the world. As the Turner exhibition tours from Russia to China and the Rothko exhibition moves to Japan, a unique opportunity has arisen to stage this pairing.’

Joseph Mallord William Turner is regarded as being among the greatest artists in history. Born in London, he was the son of a barber of humble means. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1789 at the age of 14 before becoming a member of the RA in 1802 and Professor of Perspective in 1807.

Mark Rothko was born in Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia) in 1903. He emigrated to the USA at the age of 10, and went on to become one of America’s most important post-war painters. He was commissioned to paint the Seagram murals in 1958 for Manhattan’s Four Seasons restaurant. Shortly before his death in 1970, he presented nine of them to the Tate Gallery, citing his deep affection for the Collection, and especially for Turner.