Art by J. M. W. Turner

During trips to London, I’ve had the opportunity to see many works by J. M. W. Turner. The Tate Britain, which has an extensive collection of works by Turner, provides a unique opportunity to see the range and evolution of style for an individual artist. The National Gallery on London’s Trafalgar Square also has a good sampling of Turner paintings.

Seen at the National Gallery, London

In a poll conducted by the BBC in 2005, The Fighting Temeraire was overwhelmingly voted the greatest painting in a British art gallery.  It was also a favorite painting of Turner himself, who painted it in 1839.  It is one of many paintings bequeathed to the British nation by the artist.

Turner's painting The Fighting Temeraire
The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838
Image from The National Gallery – distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license

As if often the case with oil paintings, online reproductions do not fully capture the range of colors or luminosity of the  original works.  In the case of this painting, it’s interesting to look at a few other examples to get an idea of the limitations of such online reproductions:

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy Web Museum
Seen at the Tate Britain

The two works below were presented by Turner as a complementary pair at a Royal Academy exhibition in 1842. A computer screen cannot do justice to these paintings, which provide examples of Turner’s ability to evoke mood as well as his use of imagery to represent abstract concepts.

Peace – Burial at Sea, 1842
Photo © Tate – released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)
War. The Exile and the Rock Limpet, 1842
Photo © Tate – released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)
Seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Although London provides enduring opportunities to view Turner’s works, I first came to appreciate his significance during a trip to New York. In 2008, I saw a special exhibition of works by J. M. W. Turner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which included over 140 paintings and watercolors by the artist. Most of the works in this exhibition were on temporary loan, but the one shown below is part of the Met’s permanent collection.

Venice, from the Porch of Madonna della Salute (also known as The Grand Canal- Venice)
Image courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Again, it is instructive to look at the variation across online reproductions:

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy Web Museum
Links to more info on Turner:

London: Hampton Court

Hampton Court Palace

Travel from central London to Hampton Court can be accomplished in 3-4 hours via boat or in 30-40 minutes via train. While the boat trip would have been scenic, as well as the method of travel used when the first palace was built by Cardinal Wolsey (chief minister to Henry VIII) around 1514, we always opt for the shorter train trip. This gives us a full day to enjoy the large palace and extensive grounds. If you are visiting Hampton Court Palace for the first time, I heartily recommend planning to spend a full day, including a lunch or dinner at one of the on-site venues.

The palace comprises the original Tudor structure, enlarged by Henry VIII after the property passed to him, and extensive additions in the Baroque style commissioned by William III of Orange.

Starting with the grounds, we strolled through the formal gardens which date from the time of William and Mary, visited the maze and wilderness garden, enjoyed watching the swans with their new goslings on the lake, walked through the hornbeam bower, admired the pond gardens near Banqueting House, and checked out the Great Vine — a remarkable grape vine planted in the 1700’s which now yields over 500 lbs of grapes each year.

Within the palace walls, we visited the Great Hall (where Shakespeare’s company performed), the richly appointed Chapel Royal, the Clock Courtyard, the Tudor-style garden in Chapel Court, the ancient oak spiral staircases, the royal apartments in both the Tudor and Baroque sections of the palace, and William’s Guard Hall and Dining Rooms. We also enjoyed viewing artwork from the Royal Collection, which included ceramics and furniture, as well as tapestries and paintings. In particular, the portraits of Henry VIII and his family painted by Hans Holbein and others, were interesting both historically and artistically.

The highlight of the interior palace for us was Henry’s Kitchens, replete with engaging actors in costume and food historians happy to share their knowledge. In these rooms, meals were prepared for banquets seating up to 600 in the Great Hall and for the approximately 1200 people who lived in the palace during the time of Henry VIII.

London: 2101 Butterfly House

I was at Kew Gardens during the Summer Festival that was held May 29 – September 5, 2010. During this time, there was a Butterfly House located in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. This provided an excellent opportunity to observe and photograph a variety of butterflies.

butterfly perched on flower

You can see more photos from this visit in my Kew Gardens slideshow.

London: 2010 Elephant Parade

Kingdom Elephant
Elephant Kingdom by Rebecca Campbell

During our 2010 visit to London, as we were walking across St. James Park, we saw several large, colorful statues of elephants.  These were part of Elephant Parade London, an event designed to raise funds and increase awareness of the endangered status of Asian elephants, whose numbers have declined by 90% over the past 100 years.  The 2010 London Elephant Parade comprised 260 elephant statues that were on display for two months in various locations around London.  The parade ended with an auction of the top 30 elephants held on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.  Additional elephants were sold via an online auction.  In the process, approximately 3 million pounds were raised for Elephant Family, a British charity dedicated to saving the Asian elephant from extinction.  Above to the left is Kingdom by artist Rebecca Campbell.  We spotted this elephant at Sloane Square in Chelsea.  To the right below is Gaia Elephant, who we found nearby on King’s Road.  Gaia is the creation of artists Carolyn MacLeod, Kevin Darke, and Carlamaria Jackson.

Gaia Elephant by C. Macleod, K. Darke, C. Jackson

After spotting various elephant statues around London, we found small replicas from past Elephant Parades for sale in Selfridges. We became the fond owners of a miniature “Tomato” by artist Kongchan Thanom, which appeared in the Amsterdam 2009 Elephant Parade.

You can visit the Elephant Parade website to learn more about past, present, and future Elephant Parades.  There’s also a webshop where you can purchase miniature replicas from past Elephant Parades.