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Monday, October 15, 2007

Turner: Willows beside a Stream

Joseph Mallord William Turner: Willows beside a Stream, 1805, Tate Gallery
Two or three weeks ago I wrote a little bit about the Turner Show, at the Washington National Gallery of Art. I was yesterday to see it. About 140 works, mostly from the Tate Gallery.

I knew Turner's paintings that are in Washington Gallery's collection. From them it is Approach to Venice that I like most. I will come in the end to it.

I knew from the web other famous works of him, those related to the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo among others.

So I was full of excitement to see all these paintings gathered together.

I understood yesterday much better the composition of his paintings. I was inclined, like so many others, to see in him a forerunner of the abstractionist art. Well, I keep this view, but I would be now more balanced.

First of all, Turner cannot be assigned to a particular category. He is overwhelming, he painted watercolors and oils, he painted landscapes and historical subjects, he played with all kind of techniques, and yes, in his last years he looked more and more for pure artistry, for subtle changes of colors, of light, of blur. He mastered all his life the balance between specifics and suggestions, at the end he left the whole room for suggestions.

In many of his paintings, the drama is playing in the background - the wind, the storm, the scaring edges of mountains, the sunrise like a flood of light - and he was bringing in the foreground some dwarf characters to equilibrate the whole. But, in the end, it was no more drama, no more need for foreground to equilibrate - it was only the delicacy of subtle changes of colors, of light, of blur - and perhaps the suggestion to imagine the universe beyond our own world.

So I was passing from painting to painting, more and more charmed, trying to keep in the memory of my eyes everything - and suddenly I came over a work that was not noted anywhere. Willows beside a Stream, an oil on canvass with the freshness of a watercolor, with the delicacy, the purity of a Japanese stamp. I was in front of one of the greatest beauties ever!

I took immediately the camera to take with me the image. I did not know that it was not allowed. And a guard came and warned me, Young Man, No Photos! I should have been happy that someone was taking me for a youngster - but suddenly the need to have the image became vital. I looked around, two guards were on each end. Nothing to do.

I noted the title of the painting and when I left the exhibition I searched in each catalog of Turner's works, on the museum shop. No one had the image.

Back home I started to look over the internet for it, to discover that I had misspelled the title - it was Watercolors beside a Stream what I had noted and I was no more able to remember what the first word was.

I discovered a web site of class notes where I found the title, only the image was available only for those registered. I discovered then the image on the web site of the show, only it was small, and the colors were not the same. Of course, it was only an indication for those wanting to order it.

And finally I found on the web site of the Tate Gallery an image quite loyal to the original. Look at it and enjoy your eyes!

And here, as promised, from the web site of the Washington National Gallery of Art, Approach to Venice:

Joseph Mallord William Turner: Approach to Venice, 1844, Washington National Gallery of Art

(Washington DC National Gallery of Art)



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