A Great Englishman in Madrid, JMW Turner (1775-1851) Painting Exhibition at the Museo Del Prado
Queen Victoria was horrified by the grubby little man, “why are his fingernails so dirty?” she squeaked. The answer might be very simple, “Turner liked the muck and slather of paint.” And, good heavens, could he paint. To add to this air of nuttiness once when Turner was riding one of the newly invented steam trains he stuck his head and shoulders out of the carriage much to the alarm of his fellow travellers. His excuse was he wanted to experience the rain, steam and speed first hand…! Luckily for him there were no trains coming in the opposite direction in 1844 otherwise he might have experienced sudden decapitation at first hand.
Turner was particularly noted for his seascapes. The rougher the sea the better. Tossed and blown he would stand near the waters edge holding onto his canvasses for dear life. The local villagers wondering if they should alert someone, the village policeman or the parson maybe. Eccentric yes, clinically insane, no. He painted ships, waves, storms and wild ‘Turner’ skies that rumble and blow right off the canvass. Look at a Turner seascape for long enough and one can feel a sort of queasy seasickness as the green and blue foaming mountains of water fall towards the gallery floor. Turner also liked to paint more tranquil foreign shores. He was well travelled and loved Venice and Rome but he always returned to his beloved England and the stormy English weather.
As he got older he became more and more abstract, once having a picture described by ‘The Times’ critic as “all soapsuds and whitewash”. Needless to say, Turner was reported to be unperturbed by the comment. The critics name is utterly lost to posterity, so much for learned art criticism! Turner could quite fairly be called the fist truly modern artist, becoming increasingly more abstract as his career advanced. Near the end of his life his water and skies could be seen as prototype impressionism. A flowering of which was to follow only a few years after his death in 1851. Turner was a great British artist and now he is ‘on tour’. Pictures borrowed from Tate Britain and other places and have been exhibited in London and Paris as part of this critical analysis of his life and times. Now, in Madrid, in one of the greatest art galleries in the world, Turner is available for us to study for ourselves up close and for real.
The exhibition, titled ‘Turner and the Masters’ is designed to compare Turner with his contemporaries in the 19thC art market. If you have not yet been to The Prado or maybe just finding the time to appreciate art now you have retired, the Prado is one of the top five art galleries in the world. Absolutely in the same class as the Louvre in Paris or the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The Hermitage in Russia, The National Gallery in London and the Met in New York.
Easy to get to by road, rail and air, Madrid is well served by the Metro underground. The Prado is easy to find, not too far from the Banco de Espania Metro.
Book a ticket in advance for this exhibition, The Prado won’t allow you into the Turner Exhibition without one.