The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Several years ago, when the wife and I first moved to London, we were footloose and jobless. We found ourselves one day at the Tate Britain, where lives the permanent exhibition of the largest body of work by that scintillating master, J.M.W. Turner. And what an exhibition! The man was so far ahead of his times, so innovative in his art and so fulsome in his conception, that one might imagine he had a wormhole to the future in his head. Impressionism? He did it first. Abstraction in forms? Atmospheric effects? Geometric constructions to enhance natural scapes? Ditto.

The roughly 38 thousand pieces of art - sketches, watercolours, oils - entrusted to Tate Britain are now found in the dedicated Clore Gallery, opened specifically for the purpose in 1987. Not all artifacts are displayed at all times, however. But there are always enough to saturate the soul of even the most ardent art fanatic.

The reason I suddenly recalled Turner is that a new painting has turned up after being 'lost' for 118 years. This is his watercolour depiction of a storm driving a ship onto the rocks below Bamborough Castle. The work had been purchased by the Vanderbilts in 1890, vanishing till recently from the public eye. Turner was fascinated by the power of nature, returning time and again to explore its furious beauty and its effect on the works of man. The choice of Bamborough is apt: this was a known refuge for shipwrecked sailors; it had rooms within the walls that were set aside for rescued sailors as well as a marine rescue party that patrolled a long stretch of the coast north and south of the castle.

I heard the news about this artwork today and it brought back memories of Tate Britain. A quick hunt on the Internet elicited the fact that the castle is close to Berwick-upon-Tweed, the northernmost town in England. Now that reminded me of our recent trip on the East Coast Mainline railway: we passed though Berwick. But it was raining and the little we could see out of the train was grey, not particularly inspiring. A long arched bridge was visible in the distance over the murky Tweed. I known about Turner and Bamborough, I might have persuaded the wife to alight there and head for the castle. But I didn't. So we remained on the train and went to Edinburgh instead. [The superb black-and-white photo of it above is by Cromacom.]


Post a Comment