Conversations with Turner: The Watercolors
Turner’s daringly loose brushwork and dazzling colors shine in his watercolors
J.M.W. Turner, one of Britain’s greatest painters, is perhaps known best for his oil paintings. But he was a lifelong watercolorist, and he fundamentally reshaped what would be understood as possible within the medium, both during his lifetime and after. Edited in partnership with Tate Britain, where the majority of the artist’s works are conserved, Conversations with Turner: The Watercolors is published on the occasion of a major exhibition spanning the entirety of Turner’s career. Divided into six thematic sections, it focuses on the critical role played by watercolors in defining Turner’s personal style. The book brings together texts by prominent scholars of Turner’s art, including the art historians and curators Tim Barringer, Alexander Nemerov, Oliver Meslay and Susan Grace Galassi.
Comprised of 100 works (all of which are reproduced in this volume), the exhibition was selected from upward of 30,000 works on paper, 300 oil paintings, and 280 sketchbooks donated after the artist’s death in 1851, as part of the collection known as the “Turner Bequest.” Turner’s innovations in watercolor are illustrated in this book through an emphasis on landscapes and seascapes, many of which were painted during Turner’s long stays abroad in continental Europe and beyond. The works showcase the development of Turner’s stylistic language, focused on experimentation with the expressive potential of light and color, which anticipated trends in late-19th-century painting.
J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851) was a controversial figure throughout his career, despite being championed by Ruskin and having played a key role in the elevation of pure landscape painting as a genre, which he took to unprecedented levels of abstraction. He traveled widely in Europe, starting with France and Switzerland in 1802 and studying in the Louvre in Paris in the same year, and later making many visits to Venice.
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