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J.M.W. Turner and Frederic Church at Reynolda House
J.M.W. Turner, Yacht Approaching the Coast, 1845.
WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA.-When plans were drawn up for the new Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing and the restoration of Reynolda House, one of the goals was to dedicate spaces in the historic house for small thematic exhibitions. The first such exhibition, J.M.W. Turner and Frederic Church: An Atlantic Conversation, will be on view through February 5, 2006 in the former French guest room on the second level of Reynolda House.

Reynolda House is borrowing J.M.W. Turner’s circa 1845 painting Yacht Approaching the Coast from the Tate Britain and exhibiting the masterpiece alongside the Museum’s own monumental 1855 work The Andes of Ecuador, by Frederic Church. This international visual conversation comes three years after Reynolda lent Church’s painting to the Tate’s landmark exhibition, American Sublime.

Arguably the two most famous artists of the mid-nineteenth-century, parallels abound in the lives and art of J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) and Frederick Church (1826-1900). The Englishman and the American both came of age in a rapidly changing world in which advances in technology, industrialization, and urbanization profoundly altered the relationship between the individual and the environment. Turner and Church, children of this new era, responded to modernity by seeking transcendent universals in nature. A brushy seascape and a meticulous landscape, the two salon-scale paintings initially appear to share little in common. Upon reflection, however, the two masterworks are unified by a common central force – the sun – that bathes each wilderness in an all-powerful light that forms a cross on each canvas. Civilization, represented by Turner’s sails and Church’s villages, is thereby provided with a compass with which to navigate the timeless divinity of nature in an uncertain modern age.

Dr. Tom Denenberg, Betsy Main Babcock Curator of American Art at Reynolda House, will give a gallery talk on Tuesday, December 13 and again on Tuesday, January 10, 2006 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., during which he will discuss the artistic and historic parallels between these two masterpieces.

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