Review: Turner from The Tate: The Making of a Master

Arts & Culture, Reviews — By on March 18, 2013 7:42 PM


Pure talent isn’t hard to recognise, and it’s easy to see it seeping from the canvases and papers J.M.W. Turner worked on.

Over 100 pieces, including some of his most renowned paintings, sketches and incomplete works, line the walls of the Art Gallery of South Australia, taking you on an almost chronological journey of Turner’s progression to becoming an artistic master (hence, the exhibition’s title). Each room represents one part of his life – ranging from his earliest works at just 13, to pieces from his numerous tours of Europe, and ending with the final pieces of his lifetime. Despite this, it is cleverly displayed so we can compare his earlier works to his older pieces, allowing a true appreciation for the multiple transformations of style he underwent.

Any artist would be in heaven as the varying landscapes, colours, and stories of the land and sea surround them in the first major Australian exhibition of Turner’s work in almost 20 years. Even those less artistically inclined can sense  Turner’s brilliance. The earliest piece exhibited, a small watercolour landscape titled Oxford from the South West, showcases skills many would die for. The attention to detail in each piece is incredible.

When you see his oil masterpieces you will truly understand the devotion Turner had to his art. Admiring the depth of his artistic knowledge could take hours. The lighting and shadow, the detail in both foreground and background, the colour palette – there’s just so much to take in! You can truly see the labour put into each piece.

Artists have the opportunity to gain inspiration from his sketches, colour studies and incomplete paintings; a behind-the-scenes treat, if you will, considering Turner rarely gave away his secrets to creating.

Also, in viewing and no doubt appreciating Turner’s masterpieces, we are able to better  acknowledge the history of Britain and parts of Europe, as many of his pieces depict historical  society, momentous events and his lifestyle. Few people can tell a story in a painting like Turner could.

So, whether you’re an aspiring artist or someone being dragged along for the tour, take the time to truly indulge in the Makings of a Master. Look for the tiny details and embrace the experience of seeing a lifetime of works produced by a genius.


Turner from The Tate: The Makings of a Master is showing at the Art Gallery of South Australia until 19 May.

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