Turner made three trips to Venice—1819, 1833 and 1840. During this period his style changed radically from precisely observed watercolours to increasingly impressionistic oils. Like many of his contemporary artists, he fell under the spell of Venice—both the city and its literary and artistic associations and was just as inspired to paint these imaginary aspects of the city. His portrait of Rebecca, the daughter of the Merchant of Venice, for example, shows a fascination with Shakespeare’s evocation of the city. Byron’s poetry also stoked Turner’s romanticised depictions of the watery city. Its great artists too, such as Titian and Canaletto, inspired him to experiment with different methods of colour and composition. In this exhibition, there is evidence of all these influences. There are also works by Turner’s contemporary English artists, most notably Richard Parkes Bonington, John Ruskin and William Etty. The exhibition (9 October-11 January 2004) includes many works from the Turner Bequest, which are not normally on view due to their fragility. There are also pendants that have been reunited with their other halves. It has been curated by Ian Warrell, of the Tate, sponsored by Barclays Bank plc.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Turner in Venice, Tate Britain'