Thursday, February 27, 2020

The sun is God

A couple of weekends ago, Mighty Reader and I mounted an expedition from sleepy Seattle to sleepy Mystic, Connecticut, where the Mystic Seaport Museum was hosting, improbably enough, an exhibit of Turner watercolors.

Many of these watercolors were studies for works in oil, and for that reason had a sort of unfinished quality. Some of them, on the other hand, were studies for Turner's later works which were more abstract, and I could see little difference between the watercolor sketches and the finished oils. The sketches for the abstract works were all impossibly fabulous. You really see Turner's energy, his instinctive compositional sense and understanding of color.

Some of the works were painted as class materials for Turner's lectures while he served as professor of perspective at the Royal Academy of Art. This is the corner of one of those lecture illustrations, which were all numbered.

This is a late work, a maritime subject involving ships and whales. You can't see it? I think this is a great painting.

The exhibit held something like 94 works, not including the sketchbooks and notes also on display in a glass cabinet off to the side. It took a long time to go through the gallery, which had the uncomfortable concrete floor pictured here. I will say that the museum is a nice space, though the lighting was here and there awfully damned dim.

You can see the patches of shadow on the walls in this picture. Even so, we were allowed to get right next to the paintings, and photography was encouraged.

Here's one of Turner's images of Venice. I believe the white sketching on the left side is chalk over a gray ground of paint.

Some of the earlier paintings are quite detailed and naturally reminded me of Ruskin. Though I can't look at a Turner without thinking at least in passing of Ruskin.

Another whaling scene, two whales and two ships. Look at the movement here, the intense focus of density in the lefthand side and the emptiness balancing it on the right. My kind of informal balance, Mr T.

I don't remember what this was. Possibly a storm against a beach head. The exhibit has closed and is on its way back to Europe, if I remember correctly. We were told that people came from all over America to visit wee Mystic. A trip well worth taking, especially since this stuff is not out on permanent exhibit at the Tate, where it lives when it's at home.