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Turner and Venice

Peter Furtado previews a new exhibition devoted to J.M.W. Turner’s visits to the historic city in the first half of the 19th century.

A major exhibition, the first ever to be devoted to J.M.W. Turner’s seminal trips to Venice, will open at Tate Britain in early October. The exhibition, sponsored by Barclays plc, spans twenty years between Turner’s first visit to the city in 1819 and his last in 1840. It will bring together around fifty-five oil paintings, and over 100 watercolours as well as prints, maps and Turner’s Venice sketchbooks.

Even among Venice’s many distinguished artistic visitors, Turner remains one of the few to find a true echo of his own sensibility in the unique qualities of this floating city. His images of Venice were quickly recognised by their first viewers as some of his most magical, luminous works. His vision remains as vital today, expressing as it does the often inchoate and funereal qualities of the Venetian experience.

Much of the material in the exhibition is part of the Turner Bequest in the Tate Collection but, because of its fragile nature, a significant amount is not normally on view. Some of the watercolours will be displayed for the first time, including several romantic and mysterious studies of Venice by moonlight. There will also be extensive loans from public collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh as well as works from private collections.

The exhibition will also explore the influence of Venetian masters Titian and Tintoretto and will include work by Canaletto. It will also shed light on the relationship between the work of Turner and that of his contemporaries such as Richard Parkes Bonington and Samuel Prout.

‘Turner in Venice’ opens at Tate Britain on October 9th, 2003 and runs until January 11th, 2004. Admission £8.50 (concessions £6).

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