The Burning of the House of Lords and Commons, 16th October, 1834 Oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 48 1/2 inches Philadelphia Museum of Art The John Howard McFadden Collection.
Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps, 1812 Oil on canvas, 57 1/2 x 93 1/2 inches Tate, London, Bequeathed by the Artist.
Keelmen Heaving in Coals by moonlight, 1835 Oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches National Gallery of Art, Washington, Widener Collection.

Impressive retrospective receives warm welcome to the Lone Star State

Dallas Museum of Art hosts J.M.W. Turner exhibit

By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor

Feb. 10, 2008 - When company calls here in the Lone Star state, we like to give them a big welcome. We spruce up the house. We tell our friends and neighbors that company's coming. We make sure our guest rooms are warm and inviting.

If there's any doubt about how we treat visitors, just drop by the Dallas Museum of Art anytime between now and May 18.

The museum has just welcomed more than 130 pieces of art for a very special three month exhibit.

They're hosting "the largest and most comprehensive retrospective ever presented in the United States of the career of English artist J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), one of the greatest landscape painters in the history of art."

I attended the invitation-only press preview of the exhibit Thursday and it took my breath away.

"This is a once in a lifetime exhibit," John R. Lane, The Eugene McDermott Director of the museum, told the invitees. "Some of these paintings have never shown in the United States, and some of them will never travel again. This is the most important European exhibit touring North America this year. It was at the National Gallery of Art (in Washington, D.C.) in the fall and now it's here."

After the exhibit leaves Dallas, it will travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, July 1 through Sept. 21.

The exhibit contains 136 pieces of Turner's extensive collection, housed in 10 specially staged rooms.

Dorothy Kosinski, Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture and The Barbara Thomas Lem-mon Curator of European Art, said, "We wanted to present this exhibit as elegantly as humanly possible."

Elegant it is.

Each grouping is offered up in a perfectly lit room, painted in earth tones of plum, navy, butter yellow, brick red, dusty rose, and both pale and forest green. Some-one thought long and hard about how to present Turner's genius at its very best.

Ian Warrell, Curator for the Tate Collection in London, was on hand to offer his considerable expertise on the exhibit. The Tate Collection houses nearly 300 of Turner's oil paintings and some 3,000 Turner sketches. Having Warrell, with his precise British accent, school us about Turner's life and point out various techniques was a real treat.

The exhibit showcases Turner's important watercolors and oil on canvas land and seascapes, as well as his smaller sketches and quick studies. There is not one insignificant piece in the collection.

Several pieces, however, do stand out.

Turner's first piece, "Fisherman at Sea," completed when he was only 21 and his largest work "Battle of Trafalgar," (on the front page) at 102 x 144 inches, showcase his eye for detail. It would take days to totally absorb the scope of each work.

To me, the most brilliant piece in the collection is "The Burning of The House of Lords and Commons, 16th October 1834" (pictured right). I stood in front of the work for over 15 minutes. What's missing in our photograph is Turner's delicate balancing act between the hot fire and the cold night sky. The blaze fills the left side of the canvas and you'd think a conflagration of that magnitude would wipe out everything else, but you would be wrong.

Turner places tiny, twinkling stars in a navy sky in the upper right hand corner of the painting and pays such attention to the details that even the lamps on the bridge seem to glow with their own energy. If you see nothing else but this piece, it will be worth your trip into the city.

There are two other pieces toward the end of the exhibit that seem to be lit from within.

"Venice from the Porch of Madonna della Salute," oil on canvas 1835 compelled me to stop and stare. Venice is one of my favorite cities on the planet and Turner took me there during the city's glory days, before the ravages of pollution and acid rain.

"Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps" (pictured right middle) oil on canvas, 1812 highlights the artist's attention to detail. See if you can find the elephant.

The Turner exhibit opens Sunday and runs through May 18.

The Dallas Museum of Art is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day except Thursday, when they stay open until 9 p.m.

Ticket prices for this exhibit are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, $12 for students. Admission to the exhibit also includes general admission to the museum. Discounts and docent-led tours are available for groups of ten or more.

There is a specially designed audio tour accompanying the Turner exhibit. It is included free with paid admission and will enhance your enjoyment of the exhibit.

Call 214-922-1222 for ticket and tour information.

When you go, don't miss an opportunity to dine at one of the museum's two eateries.

The Atrium Café and Seventeen Seventeen restaurant offer delicious fare in the museum's elegant surroundings. I've never had a bad meal at either place, be it a simple chicken salad croissant and tomato basil soup or the elegant seared sea bass with a crisp Italian Orvieto wine. The café and the restaurant are open from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Reservation are are recommended for Seventeen Seventeen. Call 214-880-0158.

The Dallas Museum of Art is located at 1717 North Harwood, just off Woodall Rogers Freeway, in the arts district near downtown.

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