NewsTate Britain launches a landmark Turner exhibition

October 8, 20200
A major new exhibition at Tate Britain is dedicated to the life’s work of JMW Turner


Turner’s Modern World at Tate Britain (28 Oct-7 Mar 2021) shines a spotlight on Britain’s greatest landscape painter (1775-1851). It examines how Turner found new ways to capture the momentous events of his day.

The exhibition is made up of 160 works. These include major loans as well as rarely seen drawings.

As a contemporary of the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars, Turner lived through turbulent times. He also witnessed the industrial revolution, which led to the transition from sail to steam.

It’s little wonder, then, that his work often depicts war, industry and infrastructure.

The exhibition begins in the 1790s, when Turner was a young painter. It continues into his later life.

War works

The Battle of Trafalgar (1806-08) and Field of Waterloo (1818) are obvious examples of how war influenced his art. However, other pieces are more subtle, depicting life in Britain before, during and after conflict.

In addition to these paintings, browse works that show Turner’s thoughts on Nelson, Napoleon and Wellington, as well as soldiers and civilians.

JMW Turner – The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory 1806-08 © Tate
Social reform

As well as the aforementioned wars, Turner was influenced by The Greek War of Independence – which saw Greece break away from Ottoman Turkey. He was also influenced by the 1832 Reform Act, which increased the number of men who could vote.

These, along with the movement to abolish slavery in the USA, helped develop Turner’s attitudes towards social reform, labour and slavery – perhaps this led him to focus on the home of the British government in his 1835 oil painting The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons.

Naval and technology works

As well as war, Britain lost ships in significant shipwrecks and explosions during Turner’s time.

Therefore, some of Turner’s work depicts maritime catastrophes, such as the A Disaster at Sea (1835) and Wreck of a Transport Ship (c.1801).

At the same time, steam technology was replacing sailboats, which Turner reflected upon – unlike most of his peers.

In the final part of the exhibition, look out for Snow Storm (1842), The Fighting ‘Téméraire’ (1839) and Rain, Steam and Speed (1844), a rare loan from the National Gallery.

JMW Turner – Venice, the Bridge of Sighs exhibited 1840 © Tate
Safety measures

When booking, your contact details will be collected for the NHS Test and Trace system.

Other safety measures include reduced capacity and pre-registered time slots.


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