William Turner Paintings at the De Young Museum in San Francisco

The art world continues to celebrate the 240th anniversary of William Turner, one of the most revered artists of the 19th century. Thus, the British have made a film about their famous compatriot, and the Americans trying to keep up with them have organized several major exhibitions across the country. So let’s talk about one of them presented at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. The name of the exhibition is “J.M.W Turner. Painting Set Free.”

First of all, it should be noted that organizers have gathered more than sixty William Turner paintings and watercolors from museums and galleries around the world. Furthermore, it is the first large exhibition in the United States dedicated to the artist’s achievements during his last period of life when he created several iconic works. The show dispels the myths, interpretations, and assumptions that have grown around the Turner’s late works. It demonstrates the breadth of knowledge and imagination of the painter, as well as the diversity of his experimental methods, processes, and used materials. Visitors also have a unique opportunity to see some masterpieces that have appeared in the Mike Leigh’s film “Mr. Turner.” So who is this talented artist?

William Turner was born in 1775 in London. In 1789, at the age of 14, he entered the Royal Academy. In 1802, he became an academician, and five years later – a professor of perspective. Being a prolific artist, he created amazing oil paintings, prints, drawings, and watercolors often with references to history, mythology, and literature. Turner was looking for inspiration traveling across the UK and Europe and studying nature and the works by famous artists of the Baroque and Renaissance periods. Even at the end of his life, he continued his travels – his last visit to the continent dates back to 1845. After the death of William Turner in 1851, his body was buried in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Highlights of the “J.M.W Turner. Painting Set Free” exhibition have become such famous William Turner paintings as “The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons” created in 1834, “Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbor’s Mouth” created in 1842, as well as the recently discovered watercolors depicting the fire at the Tower of London in 1841. Moreover, the visitors also have an opportunity to see two outstanding William Turner paintings called “Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino” and “Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus” that were originally conceived as a pair, but in fact they were rarely presented together since 1839. The exhibition is concluded with Turner’s works created at the end of his life including several paintings depicting classical Greek couple, Dido and Aeneas. In this way, the De Young Museum offers an excellent overview of the final period of William Turner’s career when he turned to the great themes of nature, religion, and history. Virtuosic depictions of light, extraordinary Romantic imagination, and brilliant technique are definitely worth seeing while visiting San Francisco! The exhibition runs until September 20, 2015.