Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Confronting the Sublime: J. M. Turner at the National Gallery

"He did great work in the trees! [..and the skies!]"
-heard in the exhibit hall.
Image: J.M. Turner, "The Junction of the Thames and the Medway", 1807, National Gallery of Art)

"Contemplation of an infinite and powerful nature was thought to be not only exhilarating but also enlightening—leading to thoughts of transcendence and man’s insignificance in the face of the vast universe." –Wall text

Well, that’s part of what I’m after, but I don’t think Man is insignificant—would that he were! I think all beings are very much a part of the grandiosity that surrounds us all. Still, I love that reverence and his pictorial ideas are very relevant to my own work—especially those relating to vegetation and treatment of the sky. This is a major retrospective and I’m glad I saw it—especially as prologue to the Hudson River show tomorrow. Here are a few impressions:
  • His skies are some of the most turbulent and dynamic in all of painting.
  • His sky theatrics are motivated by the horrible haze and pollution of 19th C. London.
  • His skies divide into three types: wrath-of-God turbulence; smog; untroubled blues of purer and more primitive places, including Italy; and serene yellows of late life.
  • He REALLY could not draw the figure. Whey the British so revere such a pathetic draftsman is beyond me.
  • He executed small sketches on site, then rushed to the studio and did quick watercolors from memory. Then he did more refined watercolors that he used as models for much larger oils.

Exhibit Info
Washington Post

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