Just when I thought I was all "museumed-out" from my East Coast trip, the Tiny Goddess and I went to the show of J.M.W. Turner at the Getty Center and were absolutely blown away. Turner is one of my "favorite" artists, but this show – J.M.W. TURNER: PAINTING SET FREE – made me appreciate this great genius all over again.
I've been lucky enough to have seen the Turners at the Tate in London a couple of times and Turners when and where I can find them – at the Frick, at the Met, etc. – but this show of sixty-one works, all in one place, was an eye-popper and heart-stopper.
And the fact that the show was devoted to Late Turner – the work he did from the age of sixty until his death at seventy-six in 1851 – made me love it all the more. This final creative flowering by an already established master is akin to late Yeats and late Verdi as a wonderful gift to civilization. As old and accomplished as he was, Turner kept pushing himself, experimenting with new forms and techniques, and finding his own way, right until the end. It's quite an inspiration for anyone trying to do something good at a late age.
At this point in his life, after being mocked and misunderstood, decades (centuries?) ahead of his time in his treatment of the paint medium, Turner stood at the pinnacle of his art form, about to do just about anything he wanted. His absolute mastery of color and line in all the oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings in the show was simply astounding. I stood there, looking at all this obvious genius, and wondered what it must feel like, to be able to do something as well as Turner painted and drew. He had artistic superpowers. He wasn't an ordinary human being. He was a master of Pure Painting, as the world has seldom seen.
That kind of Absolute Mastery always bowls me over. It's one of the things that makes life worth living.
So here are some links to the Turner show – which is going to San Francisco next – and will be open late this weekend at the Getty:
THE GETTY CENTER – J.M.W. TURNER: PAINTING SET FREE website -- http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/turner/
Trailer for MR. TURNER, the film by Mike Leigh – flawed but informative -- with Timothy Spall as Turner https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GKlo2xWvuI
And as a side-bonus, a great moment from Mike Leigh's masterpiece SECRETS AND LIES, delivered by Timothy Spall