Turner e l'Italia'
Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara 16 November 2008-22 February 2009
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JMW Turner's watercolour of Edinburgh from Calton Hill invests the Scottish capital with the grandeur of a Roman panorama while his Minehead, Somersetshire offers a over sparkling blue seas more reminiscent of the Amalfi coast than the West Country. These works demonstrate the pervasive impact of the artist's visits to Italy, as explored in 'Turner e l'Italia' at the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara. Turner's travels around Europe have been thoroughly charted in recent studies, so it is remarkable that this is the first exhibition staged in Italy to address the artist's engagement with the country as a whole.
The exhibition is arranged chronologically and opens with Turner's first Italian views painted in the 1790s. But these tentative compositions were products of the young painter's imagination and his admiration for the works of Richard Wilson and Robert Cozens. Turner's journey to Rome in 1819 at the age of 44 is traditionally considered to have been his first visit to Italy. Had the curators decided to focus exclusively on his subsequent work this would have been a very different exhibition. Instead, they seek out the roots of the artist's fascination with Italy from his childhood onwards. This choice is supported by a wealth of material, with almost half the galleries devoted to the years leading up to 1819. Reflecting the extraordinary range of Turner's output, exhibits include seminal paintings such as the luminous Modern Rome--Campo Vaccino alongside watercolours, sketchbooks, illustrations and prints. This broad scope makes good use of the 16th-century palazzo in which larger spaces alternate with ante-rooms suited to the display of works on paper.
The exhibition's holistic approach extends to Turner's first vicarious encounters with Italy, including the buildings of the Covent Garden 'piazza' and conversations with well-travelled customers in his father's barber shop in nearby Maiden Lane. From these modest beginnings the analysis rapidly gains momentum with a reassessment of Turner's foray into the Val d'Aosta in 1802. The curator, James Hamilton, proposes that this should be regarded as the artist's first visit to Italy. Turner arrived in Paris during the Peace of Amiens and then headed straight for the Alps. Travelling via Lyon to Chamonix, he briefly crossed into Italy at Aosta before returning over the Great St Bernard Pass...