It wasn’t “two for Tuesday,” but none-the-less the Met offered back-to-back lectures on Turner this afternoon. Turner and the Romance of Britain given by Simon Schama, University Professor, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University was the first, followed by Turner and America by Franklin Kelly, Senior Curator of American and British Paintings, National Gallery of Art.
If there’s one thing I haven’t learned about New York yet, and especially about the Met, it’s get there plenty early or you may not even be able to find standing room. Indeed the theater was too crowded for the first lecture, so we headed to the American Galleries and returned for the second. By then a few sould had given up their seats and we secured some for Kelly’s talk.
I am sorry I missed Schama’s talk, seeing the end of it I could tell he was very animated, often hitting the microphone with his moving hands while speaking. (this is another thing about Met lectures, I recall a gallery talk by Ronald Freyberger after which folks were grabbing for a lecture schedule like signatures from a celebrity).
On to Turner and America… While England learned of Turner from his paintings, Americans learned of him from black-and-white prints, in which his work might not look so different than say Constable. The American painter Thomas Cole went to Britain to learn history painting, and seems to have picked up some cloud techniques from Turner, although Kelly said he was shocked by the man himself and referred to his work as “lacking solidity.”
While Turner belongs to England, it may be American painter Frederick Edwin Church and Thomas Moran (born in Britain, moved to America) who picked up where he left off. As Kelly demonstrated, several of Moran’s paintings are strikingly similar to works by Turner. The effect is intentional, and on occasion it’s difficult to discern the work by Turner from Moran.
This is the third time I have seen this exhibition, the first being in Washington, DC. Mich of it goes back to Merry old England in a few weeks, so head to the Met soon to see the painter Queen Elizabeth called “Mad.” “J. M. W. Turner