Today we returned to Tate Britain to do more in depth study of some of the pieces we saw last week. It was nice to revisit some of the paintings, take a couple of docent tours, and visit a hands-on Turner workshop.
Of particular note was an effort to better understand J.M.W. Turner and his art. The special Turner exhibit demonstrated a greater breadth of style, content, and use of color than we previously knew. Turner is most well known as the painter responsible for landscape painting much as we know it today. His career spanned six decades up to 1850. During that time his use of color adapted to advances in chemistry and technology that created new colors and consistencies of paint. He adapted his palette colors to the locations rather than working with a set palette. Finally, as he matured his paintings became less detailed and more focused on color and light. His last paintings look as abstract and impressionistic as Monet’s final paintings 70 years later. Here’s a link to a Turner site that has many paintings: http://www.j-m-w-turner.co.uk/
Other significant lessons included John Millais, who spent about 3000 hours on Ophelia. That included 1600 hours spent plenn aire painting the background in exquisite detail.
John Singer Sargent‘s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose is a captivating painting. It is even more amazing to learn that this painting was completed plenn aire over the course of two summers. He rented a Cotswald house and hired his friend’s two daughters to light lanterns in the garden each evening at dusk. This gave him 20-30 minutes to paint each evening. November arrived and the painting was incomplete so Sargent rented the house for the next summer when he returned and completed the painting in the same process. 18 months and about 300 thirty minute painting sessions!
The Tate created a hands-on Turner workroom to learn about his advances in the understanding of color and line. There was so much to digest it was like taking a class. In addition they had a sketch room set up where you could copy Turner’s own pencil sketches. (Or at least attempt to do so.) Between the videos, hands on experiments, and demonstrations there was much to absorb.
After such a wonderful artistic day we decided to walk to Westminster Abbey (Anglican Church) for Evensong. Upon arrival we learned that there would be no music as the choir was singing for Vespers at Westminster Cathedral, the Catholic Church. We hustled to Westminster Cathedral and spent an hour in Vespers. Lovely!
Looking for dinner after Vespers, we found a wonderful Italian restaurant near Victoria Station. The food was wonderful and we made friends with our waitress, an Argentine woman with a terrific smile and personality. Although Argentine, Katerina was French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish by her grandparents’ origins. We shared some stories and she encouraged us to visit Argentina, “the most beautiful place on earth.”
As usual, our day ended with a mile hike from the tube station to The London Guest House.