ART / SEEN – Review of J.M.W. Turner: Watercolors from Tate at Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT

It is 30 degrees today and summer in Newport is but a memory. Over the past month I’ve seen a lot of interesting art both near – Mystic, Connecticut – and far – Orlando and Winter Park, Florida and Austin, Texas. I’ll start with the fantastic exhibition of J.M.W. Turner Watercolors on view at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut.

Old Master Drawings dealer and friend Mia Wiener and I were skeptical. Turner at Mystic? We were sold when we found out the exhibition is a collaboration with the Tate (they have an amazing repository of works by the artist – The Turner Bequest). We eschewed taking 95 South and opted for the scenic coastal route from Jamestown, RI, stopping for lunch in Watch Hill, RI at the Ocean House. It was a glorious, warm, autumn day. The view from our table of Misquamicut Beach and the Atlantic Ocean beyond was breathtaking. Mia and I both agreed we really couldn’t think of a nicer place to be at that moment.

Sated, we ventured on to Mystic. Neither one of us had been to the new Thompson Exhibition Building. Designed by Centerbrook Architects and Planners, Essex, CT www.centerbrook.org the glass and wood building is both exciting and successful. The exterior wave-like form is a departure from the Greek Revival and Victorian architecture which abuts it, but it works. The entrance hall is bright, airy and welcoming.

The actual exhibition space in the Collins Gallery was well lit and hung. (It reminded me a bit of the dining room at the New York Yacht Club’s New York Clubhouse – Centerbrook probably noted the strong Morgan connections between NYYC and Mystic in their research for the project). First rate really. These veteran museum goers were impressed! We loved the chronological hanging of the 97 works into 6 thematic groupings. One can really see the arc of Turner’s career. The wall labels are well written and insightful. My favorite watercolor was Ehrenbreitstein with a Rainbow, 1840. Although I love works on paper and Turner is considered a master of the medium, the brushwork, drama and emotional force of his oil Whalers (Boiling Blubber) Entangled in Flaw Ice, Endeavouring to Extricate Themselves from 1846 moved me.


The exhibition, J. M. W. Turner: Watercolors from Tate, curated by David Blayney Brown is on view at Mystic Seaport Museum through February 23, 2020. This is the only North American venue for the show so don’t miss it! www.mysticseaport.org.