Sony Pictures Classics’ biopic Mr. Turner captures the explosion of color, light and movement so splendidly realized in the paintings of J.M.W. Turner, the British landscape artist whose revolutionary style set the stage for French Impressionism. Whether you liked the movie or not — some thought it was boring — his paintings are anything but.
Now you’ll have the chance to see dozens of them firsthand, but I’ll get to see them first. The day after the Oscars are handed out, LA’s Getty Museum has invited the press to preview more than 60 of the master’s later works – the convention-defying ones that set the art establishment on its arse. You and every other art lover in Los Angeles will get to see them the next day, at an exhibit that runs through May 24.
Many of the paintings featured in the film will be on display, including the astonishing Snow Storm: Steam‑Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth, which was first exhibited in 1842.
If Claude Monet was the father of Impressionism, Turner was its grandfather. He died two years before Vincent van Gogh was born and 20 years before Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cézanne, Manet and Pissarro ushered in the age. But his groundbreaking work can be seen in all of theirs.
Ever since I first saw his “Rain, Steam and Speed” at the Tate Museum in London many years ago, I was hooked on Turner. Every time I visited a museum anywhere in the world, I always asked, “Do you have any Turners?” Sometimes they had one or two at most, and the curators usually would have to look in the catalog to find where they were hanging.
Naturally, the filmmakers and the museum have an affinity for the art depicted in the film. “Both the exhibit and our film dealt with the latter part of Turner’s life, and his work during this period became dramatic, radical and extraordinary, in a quite unprecedented way,” Mike Leigh, the film’s writer-director, told Deadline.
Leigh and the exhibit’s curator, Julian Brooks, hosted a screening of Mr. Turner at the Pacific Design Center in November, a month before its U.S. release. Brooks told Deadline that the film was true to the artist and to his art.
“I’m very impressed by the lengths that the filmmakers went to in order to capture Turner’s palette and give the film an accurate Turner coloring, while representing well the unique nature of his character and remarkable achievements,” he said.
Timothy Spall, who won the Best Actor prize at Cannes this year for playing Turner, actually learned to paint in order to better capture the artist at work. “I got over two years of training and practice,” he told Deadline last month. “I painted a couple copies of a Turner to see how he worked out and went about his business. I learned to paint to your standard of, I reckon, Turner when he was 9 years old. But it really was helpful.”
At the Oscars on February 22, Mr. Turner is up for Best Cinematography (Dick Pope), Costume Design (Jacqueline Durran), Original Score (Gary Yershon) and Production Design (Suzie Davies and Charlotte Watts). Final voting ends Tuesday at 5 PM Pacific time. Academy members who haven’t already voted should see the film then go see the exhibit — which is free, just like Mr. Turner would have wanted.