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Major Retrospective of British Artist J. M. W. Turner Opens at Metropolitan Museum
Joseph Mallord William Turner (British, 1775–1851), The Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805. 1823-04. Oil on canvas; 102 x 144 in. National Maritime Museum, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- The first major retrospective of the work of celebrated British artist J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851) to be presented in the United States in more than 40 years will be on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning July 1, 2008. The exhibition J. M. W. Turner will represent the artist's extensive iconographic range, from seascapes and topographical views to historical subjects and scenes from his imagination. More than half of the approximately 140 paintings and watercolors on view will be on loan from Tate Britain, which houses the Turner Bequest, the most comprehensive collection of the artist's work in the world. These will be complemented by works from other collections in Europe and North America.

The retrospective will provide a rich overview of the artistic achievement of Joseph Mallord William Turner as it documents the evolution of his unique style. In a career that spanned more than six decades, Turner essayed a wide range of subjects, from landscapes—a genre that he dominated during the first half of the 19th century in Britain—to historical and modern scenes and subjects of his own invention. A fascination with light and color characterizes his work in all media. In addition, his technical innovations, notably in watercolor, had a profound impact on subsequent artistic developments across the Channel in France, as well as in the United States.

Born in London in 1775, Turner spent his early childhood in Covent Garden, where his father had a barber shop. At a very young age he showed talent in sketching and became a draftsman with an architect. When he was fourteen, Turner enrolled in London's Royal Academy of Arts Schools and in 1802 became the youngest artist to be elected as a full Academician. As a student, Turner studied with Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92), who was in his last years as president of the Royal Academy. Reynolds encouraged his students to study the techniques of the Old Masters. The idealized landscapes of Claude Lorrain (c.1604/5-82) served as a touchstone for Turner throughout his career.

The exhibition will feature many of the remarkable canvases that Turner exhibited at the Royal Academy—works that established his reputation—from his first exhibited oil, Fishermen at Sea (1796, Tate), to the luminous paintings The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, 16 October 1834 (1835, Philadelphia Museum of Art) and Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight (1835, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C). The iconic Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps (1812, Tate) will be on view in the United States for the first time during this exhibition tour. J. M. W. Turner will also include the artist's "color beginnings," or watercolor studies for subsequently developed images, along with his finished watercolors. Works exclusive to the Metropolitan Museum's presentation of the exhibition include the painting Staffa, Fingal's Cave (1832, Yale Center for British Art) and a number of Turner's extraordinary late watercolors, such as Bamborough Castle (1837, private collection) and Goldau (1843, private collection).

The exhibition will be organized both thematically and chronologically, beginning with his earliest Sublime and historical landscapes and culminating with his late seascapes and light-filled canvases.

Prior to its showing at the Metropolitan, J. M. W. Turner was on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Dallas Museum of Art. The Trustees of the Tate have made a special exception to allow the works from the Turner Bequest to be out of England for the duration of the U.S. tour.

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July 1, 2008

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