In Review

Maritime Museum's 'sublime' Turner and the Sea - reviews

Exhibition wows critics with a journey into the deep-blue recesses of Turner's art and mind

What you need to know

Critics are calling the National Maritime Museum's new exhibition of JMW Turner's seascapes "astonishing" and "sublime". Turner and the Sea explores the master painter's lifelong obsession with the sea and how his works forged Britain's national and cultural identity.

The exhibition contains many of Turner's most celebrated seascapes, spanning some 50 years of his career, as well as key drawings and watercolours. His work is shown alongside seascapes by other major artists to reveal how Turner drew on traditions of sea art, while exploring new ways of representing nature.

At the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich until 21 April 2014.

What the critics like

"What a show this is," says Richard Dorment in the Daily Telegraph. Curators have snagged most of the great maritime paintings and sublime watercolours and chosen works on paper that reveal not only how Turner worked, but how he thought – wow.

"This is an astonishing show" about Britain as well as about the painter, says Andrew Marr in the Daily Mail. It tells the story of a people marked by their relationship with the sea while the viewer huddles from huge storms and flying spray - quite an experience.

This carefully created and detailed exhibition is "a journey into the vast, deep-blue recess of Turner's art and mind", says Thoralf Karlsen on The Upcoming. By the end of the exhibition one has engaged, as Turner did, with the elements in constant flux, from the sea's most violent episodes to its most tranquil. 

What they don't like

The show is "not a perfect distillation of Turner's marine painting" as it misses works such as Peace – Burial at Sea and The Slave Ship, says Jackie Wullschlager in the Financial Times. But the broadly chronological hang, which strives for accessibility, makes for a vibrant, engaging exhibition.

Pictured above: Rockets and Blue Lights (close at Hand) to warn Steam-Boats of Shoal-Water by J.M.W. Turner, 1840, oil on canvas

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