Distance: 2 miles and yoga class
JMW Turner, The Lake, Petworth: Sunset, Fighting Bucks, ca 1829, oil on canvas
Detail: JMW Turner, Petworth Park, View of Tillington Church in the Distance, c. 1828, oil on canvas
Ciwt's mind continues to linger on two of Turner's Petworth Park paintings. She wrote about the bottom one in CIWT 4/149. It was completed and hung first at Petworth House, and about a year later top one became its permanent replacement.
The detail shows a large empty chair, the master in the distance framed by the setting sun and his loyal dogs running to greet him. It is a poignant passage subtly presaging a time when the master won't be there at all and only the peaceful, unconcerned deer and lawns will remain. Above it, in the replacement painting, the master and dogs are gone, replaced by a lively game of cricket, and the deer are active and virile.
The oils were painted a year apart at the magnificent Sussex estate of his friend and patron, George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont who had offered Turner a studio within Petworth House. The first was painted as Turner's father's health was failing. James and "Billy" Turner were the closest of friends and companions. They lived together for most of the young son's life and James was Turner's business manager/associate as well mixing paints, stretching canvases, running the private art gallery adjacent to Turner's town house and much more. The guarded Turner didn't get close to many people, so it is nearly impossible to imagine the sorrow he would have been grappling with at the thought of losing his father.
Ciwt speculates that it is his alone and heavy heart coming to accept the inevitability of his father's end that determined the imagery of the first painting. (James Turner died in September, 1829)
Ciwt also believes that Petworth would have been the refuge he sought to process his sorrow at the great loss ahead of him - which would leave him alone and bereft. He had been a welcome guest at Petworth over many years, and, by the time of these paintings Lord Egremont had offered him a studio of his own inside Petworth House as well as a commission to paint four special-sized landscape canvases. Turner would have welcomed the commission and the opportunity to wander Petworth Park, which he loved to paint. (Turner painted more than twenty important paintings for Petworth House)
Ciwt can also understand Lord Egremont, a man of conservative tastes, wanting a landscape for his Carved Room done more conventionally and in a happier spirit. That said, he too was a father-figure to Turner, and probably the artist had noticed his friend aging over the years. So the sense of loss and mortality in the first painting were likely also related to Turner's sense that the years were ebbing for his beloved and generous patron. In fact, In fact the 3rd Earl of Egremont did die eight years after the second painting, and Turner, followed by other artists walked before his hearse.