Walk: Fillmore, Corte Madera, Mostly Driving
Distance: 1 mile
One of the greatest English painters of the nineteenth century, J.M.W. Turner
was celebrated for his brilliant depictions of light, the virtuosity of his technique,
and his extraordinary Romantic imagination. Experience the first major survey
of Turner’s late career, when the artist displayed a fierce engagement with
grand themes of nature, history, and religion. (https://deyoung.famsf.org/turner)
Ciwt realized the other day she hasn't returned to the Turner show at the de Young since her brief late afternoon spin through it a month or so ago. Usually when a local museum has a show she finds stimulating, Ciwt goes multiple times so her actions have spoken: the show didn't really speak to her.
It's a wonderful opportunity to see Turner's works, very few of which are in the States. So, for that reason alone, the show is recommended. But, it's thin. Several paintings - perhaps the best - from the original Tate/London show didn't come across the Pond. What is here is just barely, barely enough paintings to make it seem like an important show. They fill a couple of rooms before the many watercolors and other works on paper begin. Then, in the last rooms a few more paintings - a whole wall of which Turner would have called unfinished even though the Tate doesn't seem to.
It is difficult for Ciwt to pinpoint where the draw for her isn't. Surely the Tate had ambitions for an interesting, educational show as you can see from this video on their website. Maybe it is because Turner's work is so romantically and often emotionally strong and his colors speak so vividly that Ciwt didn't really want to study each one intimately and closely. None of the works really prompted her to think or care about how old he was when he painted them or to get more informed. (Maybe it would have helped if there had been representative works from other times in his life to compare with the late works. But, truth be told, his late works weren't all that amazingly different from his early works). Each of Turner's finished works speaks for itself, has the capacity to move the viewer at face value. Just one painting - watercolor or oil - imparts so much. But many together, one after another, somehow break his spell or diminish his impact.
Ciwt will return again next week with a friend, and perhaps will modify her judgment to date. CIWT readers will be the first to know.