Monday, June 22, 2015

Paintings Set Too Free --- Day 4/144

Walk: Monday Errands
Distance: 3 miles and home yoga

J.M.W. Turner, The Storm

Ciwt is torn about going to the current de Young Turner exhibit, J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free. Perhaps by writing out loud about her doubts, she will be set free. 

She has loved Turner's art since first setting eyes on it (rather its images in History of Art classes and books), and she went to last year's Mike Leigh movie on him numerous times*.  (And would go again if it ever comes round the theaters;  no good seeing it on the small screen, too much would be lost).

Why she is torn concerns Turner's will, his last wishes.  It is a complex document but Very Specific on (among others) the point that all of his finished** paintings were to go to England.  They were to be kept and displayed "constantly" together in a Turner Museum to be built with the monies from his huge estate.  Until the new museum was built, the finished paintings were to remain in his home studio/gallery.

Simple enough: new museum, all together, - not some at the Tate, some in mothballs at the National Gallery, some here, some there.  And certainly none abroad.  After the Turner Museum was built, his testamentary wish was that the remaining monies would go to support what he termed "decayed artists." And for those needy artists he planned and designed an almshouse with a gallery for some of his 'unfinished' works.

None of this came to pass. England ignored, or let be violated by haphazard, irresponsible execution and/or by submission to greedy (and improper) relatives, and it took the all the artwork - prints, watercolors, drawings, sketches - not just the finished paintings.  That museum was never built, nor the almshouse, the cash in the estate was given up by the executors.  On and on, all betrayal. It is a sad and cautionary tale, particularly for the impecunious artists who would have sorely needed the help he intended.

So, obviously Ciwt hesitates to go to a show based on the betrayals and also benefits U.S. museums instead of the "decayed artists" Turner had in his mind and heart.

On the other hand, Turner died in 1851, over 150 years ago.  Ciwt's going or not going to the present show, will have no effect whatsoever.  And who knows what would have become of that almshouse if it had been built?  Also, Ciwt can think of artists who left their works with slightly similar stipulations, and the museums in question have had to devote much precious space, time, upkeep to art which may be of little regard.  So, artist's wills can be problematic, like any legacy left with strong strings attached.

So, now Ciwt will 'sleep on it'  ---  and most likely attend the show.  Stay tuned...

*  See CIWT 3/340, 343, 346, 349, 351
**The designation was his, and apparently very important to Turner as he always used the adjective "finished" when referring to the paintings to be left to England - and he left his studio with paintings  leaning in stacks according to what was and wan't finished.  

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