Turner, Monet, Twombly: Later Paintings, an exhibition devised and installed by Jeremy Lewison, opened at Moderna Museet, Stockholm on 8 October and closed on 15 January 2012. It was attended by 255,000 visitors and over 7,000 catalogues were sold. The exhibition was subsequently shown at Staatsgalerie Stuttgart where it attracted 147,000 visitors. It opens 23 June at Tate Liverpool. Two principles underlie the exhibition: that Romanticism did not die in the nineteenth century but continues to be relevant to today’s artists; that what preoccupies artists in old age in 1850 is broadly similar, in human terms, to what preoccupies older artists in 2012.
The exhibition was greeted with acclaim in Sweden by the leading art critics and was featured on Swedish national radio and Swedish breakfast television. Reviewing the exhibition for Svenska Dagbladet Carl-Johan Malmberg wrote: “I find it hard to imagine that another art exhibition of equal dignity will come to our northern latitudes in the near future. This one already feels legendary’. Describing the show as ‘freer’ and ‘more daring’ than either Turner, Whistler, Monet held at Tate Britain in 2005 or Twombly Poussin held recently at Dulwich Picture Gallery, Malmberg states that the ‘artistic qualities of the works leave [him] breathless.’
In Dagens Nyheter, Ingela Lind suggested that the exhibition consists of ‘Three gods on the international art scene, who all painted transience with flowing indeterminate places, and a compelling vortex of undercurrents.’ Praising the layout of the exhibition she states: ‘The paintings speak to one another, from room to room, for we can peek between the walls which are painted blood-red, green, violet and yellow.’ The show is ‘lyrically exquisite, but the beauty is prevented from becoming too overpowering by the dissonance provided by Cy Twombly … His huge billowing and dripping paintings are astonishing. … I am … overjoyed that an institution dares to take certain risks in order to make us see things in new ways.’
In Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s principal newspaper, Anu Ulmonen describes the exhibition as ‘an overwhelming encounter of three painters’ while the combination of their works adds up to something greater than their individual parts.
Reviews in Germany were equally favorable. In the Süddeutsche Zeitung Christian Gampert concluded his review: ‘This is a magnificent exhibition, a journey into the light, a floating world’ while Nicolai Forstbauer described the show as ‘a great meeting of great artists’ in the Stuttgarter Nachrichten. In reference to the departure of Sean Rainbird, Director of the Staatsgalerie, SWR referred to the exhibition as ‘the most glorious in his era’.
Following the opening at Tate Liverpool Rachel Campbell-Johnston wrote in the Times that the exhibition is ‘an experience not to be missed’ and like the reviewer for Connaissance des Arts suggests that the show ‘throws open the doors of art history’. ‘This is a show which unabashedly throws itself wide to a full range of feelings. It is not so much an art-historical event as a profoundly human experience.‘For Campbell-Johnston it is ‘the show of the summer.’ Mark Hudson, in the Daily Telegraph concluded his review: ‘At a time when painting appears less relevant than at any time over the last 500 years, this is the most vital assertion I’ve come across in ages of the power and versatility of that extraordinary medium.’ Craig Raine, in the New Statesman acclaimed the exhibition as ‘a great show, an absorbing, exhausting show… Overall, the show – excellently and unobtrusively curated by Jeremy Lewison – is about the power of suggestion, the greater existential accuracy of suggestion and inaccuracy.’
The exhibition is accompanied by a major catalogue with an essay by Jeremy Lewison and biographies of each artist by assistant curator Jo Widoff and is extensively illustrated. The catalogue is available in Swedish, German and English editions. Contact Moderna Museet, Stockholm for further details.