I’ve been looking forward to this exhibition since it was announced. We went along to see it on Monday and I wasn’t disappointed.
The exhibition, that had previously been shown in Stockholm and Stuttgart, explores the similarities in the late work created by three artists born in three different Centuries – J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851), Claude Monet (1840–1926) and Cy Twombly (1928–2011). The curator has grouped the pictures in themes, attempting to show the connections and similarities between the later works of the three artists.
According to the exhibition guide
In seven themes Turner, Monet and Twombly are brought together, not in competition, but as a means to explore the ways in which artists share interests, values and preoccupations.
Through the juxtaposition of their work, the exhibition also aims to underline the modernity and undiminished relevance of Turner’s and Monet’s work while simultaneously revealing the strong classical traits in Twombly’s paintings and sculptures.
It’s quite pricey to get in – the entrance fee is £12 – but this is why we decided to join the Tate. It means we can go and revisit before it finishes at the end of October.
As usual, photography was not permitted, but there’s an interesting video produced by the Tate about the exhibition on Youtube.
There’s also a video on the Liverpool Daily Post website where Tate’s Assistant Curator, Eleanor Clayton, discusses the exhibition.
It was Monet and the other Impressionists that first sparked my interest in Art and although I initially was attracted to his earlier figurative paintings, I soon began to appreciate the works he produced later in his life from his house and garden in Giverney, especially the water lilies (Nymphéas) displayed at the Musée Marmottan and Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.
The Tate exhibition includes five of Monet’s water lily paintings, displayed in the final room of the exhibition, including one owned by the National Gallery and two which have never been seen in Britain before.
In the National Gallery’s picture the forms of the water lilies are hard to make out. Like the other vegetation and reflections in the water their shapes are hard to distinguish and the picture is a mass of colours that blend into each other.
I guess I’ve been spoiled by having visited the Musée de l’Orangerie as their display of Nymphéas in their special gallery are nothing short of breath taking. But the water lily paintings on display in Liverpool are certainly worth seeing as are his other works in the exhibition, including paintings of Rouen Cathedral, the Thames, the Houses of Parliament and other scenes from his garden and the Normandy coast and countryside.
Turner is another favourite artist who was, to my mind, way ahead of his time. Although he painted traditional Romantic landscapes and mythological works, it is clear that his real interest was in the effects created by light and stormy seas. To me many of his works are pure abstract with swirling patterns of colour. In many cases, even where people, buildings and other features are present they are indistinct and hard to make out.
Before visiting the exhibition I didn’t know much about Cy Twombly other than what I read in the obituaries when he died last year, and I don’t recall seeing any of his works previously. As much as I enjoyed viewing the Turners and Monets, one of the highlights of our visit was discovering Twombly’s work. It’s always good to see old favourites (and works not previously seen created by favourite artists), but it’s even better to discover, and enjoy, work by an artist I’ve not really encountered before.
Twombly was a pure abstract artist: in the pictures on display there was no attempt to portray “real” objects. He used bright colours in many of the works on display with swirling patterns which reminded me of Turner’s approach. His Quattro Stagioni: (1993-5) is a series of four paintings representing the seasons. His interest in change and the passage of time is reminiscent of Monet who painted several series showing changes that occur during the day or over days, weeks and months – his paintings of Rouen Cathedral and his haystacks, for example.
I think the exhibition is successful in it’s aim to show the connections. But there are many differences too. All three artists were extremely accomplished but both Turner and Monet’s work was, in many ways, revolutionary and I’m not sure whether the same can be said of Twombly. Time will tell.