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Mystic, Conn. – Mystic Seaport Museum, in partnership with Tate, London, will host a major monographic exhibition devoted to the watercolors of one Britain’s greatest painters: J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). The Museum will be the only North American venue for J.M.W. Turner: Watercolors from Tate, on display October 5, 2019 to February 23, 2020.

Mystic Seaport Museum, the nation’s leading maritime museum, houses a collection of more than two million artifacts that include more than 500 historic vessels and one of the largest collections of maritime photography.

The exhibition, curated by David Blayney Brown, Tate’s Manton Senior Curator of British Art 1790-1850, will show works spanning the entire career of the famous artist. The collection includes about 90 works, and sheds light on the evolution of the artist’s creative process.

“Few artists have captured the beauty and majesty of the sea as J.M.W. Turner. Anyone who has sought art that accurately represents their personal experience of the sea has had to contend with the sheer genius of his lifelong look at that subject,” said Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport Museum. “This remarkable exhibition is a unique opportunity to step into his world and view in this country some of the riches he left his nation upon his death.”

The exhibition at the Museum, divided into six thematic sections,  focuses on the critical role played by watercolors in defining Turner’s deeply personal style.

The works have been selected from the “Turner Bequest,” comprising more than 30,000 works on paper, 300 oil paintings, and 280 sketchbooks from the artist’s personal studio. They were donated to Great Britain after the artist’s death in 1851 and mostly conserved at Tate Britain.

While Turner is perhaps better known for his oil paintings, he was a lifelong watercolorist and fundamentally shaped what was understood to be possible within the medium during his lifetime and after. An inveterate traveler, Turner rarely left home without a sketchbook, pencils, and a small traveling case of watercolors. These memories of journeys, emotions, and fragments of landscapes seen during his long stays abroad illustrate the development of Turner’s stylistic language and the expressive potential of light and color.

The intimate character of the works on display provide viewers an opportunity to explore the man himself, gaining an understanding of how the radical developments in Turner’s style anticipated trends of the late 19th century. From his love of seaside towns to his interest in depicting atmospheric English and Alpine landscapes, and his detailed study of domestic interiors and architectural reliefs, the artist devoted himself tirelessly to experimentation, particularly in watercolors, with a stylistic freedom and an innovative use of colors that led his peers to believe that Turner “appeared to paint with his eyes and nose as well as his hand.”

Conversations with Turner: The Watercolors, a major new publication edited by Nicholas Bell, the Museum’s senior vice president for Curatorial Affairs, accompanies the exhibit. The book brings together scholars of Turner’s art from around the world to engage with each other about the force of his paintings and why they continue to serve as a touchstone for Western culture.

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