Late Turner: Painting Set Free At Tate Britain

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 49 months ago
Late Turner: Painting Set Free At Tate Britain
Peace - Burial at Sea exhibited 1842 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00528
Peace - Burial at Sea, 1842. (Tate)
Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus, 1839. (Tate)
Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus, 1839. (Tate)
File_14, 3/1/11, 10:35 AM, 16C, 8000x10660 (0+0), 100%, Custom,  1/25 s, R43.1, G21.5, B33.3
Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino, 1839. (The J. Paul Getty Museum)
Light and Colour (Goethe's Theory) - the Morning after the Deluge - Moses Writing the Book of Genesis, 1843. (Tate).
Light and Colour (Goethe's Theory) - the Morning after the Deluge - Moses Writing the Book of Genesis, 1843. (Tate).
War: The Exile and the Rock Limpet, 1842.  (Tate).
War: The Exile and the Rock Limpet, 1842. (Tate).
Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway, 1844. (The National Gallery, London).
Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway, 1844. (The National Gallery, London).

A year in London's busy art scene is not complete without a Turner exhibition, but while recent exhibitions have focussed on his inspirations this show is all about his late career when he was fully free to express himself and was creating impressionist works before the Impressionists in France.

This exhibition is full of stunning landscapes, searing colours, an excellent collection of Venice paintings and some of Turner's finest works. Highlights include the classic masterpiece Rain, Steam and Speed and an intense representation of the House of Commons and Lords aflame. Some of his best works are on his smaller square canvases, including Burial at Sea, where a dark ship on fire is so expertly painted that you can almost feel the heat when you stand near it.

It's not all perfection, with the first room a curatorial mess and we were perplexed as to why they've included a room of seascapes when we've had an excellent exhibition on Turner and the Sea already this year.

The strength of the works on display does mean we were able to largely ignore these missteps and focus on the sheer brilliance of the art. His looser works are almost pure explorations of colour where the figures in the paintings are secondary to the swathes of red, yellow and blue.

Upstairs in the Clore Gallery, and at the end of the permanent Turner collection, there is a fitting tribute by Olafur Eliasson (the artist who put the Sun in the Tate Modern's turbine hall). He has created colour wheels that show the range of Turner's colour choices and how he was the original inspiration of many abstract painters that followed.

Tate Britain has come in for a bit of criticism recently, but the brilliance of Turner's later works has resulted in a sparkling exhibition and we hope this marks the start of the gallery's resurgence.

Late Turner: Painting Set Free is on at Tate Britain until 25 January. Tickets are £15 for adults, concessions available. Olafur Eliasson's Turner Colour Experiments is also on until 25 January, free to view. Also still on at Tate Britain are the monumental sculptures by Phyllida Barlow.

For more art to see in London, visit our September listings.

Last Updated 10 September 2014