The Independent Turner Society
Turner House, 153 Cromwell Road, London SW5 OTQ, Great Britain
Tel & Fax:  020 7373 5560;  Mobile:  07918 916381   (being reconstituted)

*** Saturday, 8 November 2008, 2pm   Meet at the Strand portico entrance.
Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, Strand. (Tube:  Temple; buses to Aldwych).  
Paths to Fame:  Turner Watercolours from The Courtauld Gallery (30 October 2008-25 January 2009).   Entrance:  £5/£4.  In addition to the Sir Stephen Courtauld (1883-1967) bequest, there are 9 Turners bequeathed in 2007.  I still have a few copies of A Study of Somerset House as a Turner Centre (Turner Society 1979) by the late Dr William Allen CBE and dedicated to the late Dr Kurt F.Pantzer of Indianapolis, in memory of whom an annual lecture is held every April in London.  

*** Monday, 1 December 2008.
Tate Britain.  Demonstration by the Stuckists against the follies of the Turner Prize.  You are invited to join in, dressed as clowns or however you feel inspired.

5 December 2008 – 6 February 2009.
Kings Place (the new “super-lavish” arts centre at Kings Cross )
Albert Irvin – A Retrospective.  Some years ago Albert Irvin RA gave the address at St Paul’s Cathedral at our service to commemorate the anniversary of Turner’s death (19 December).  He was commissioned to paint a picture (now regrettably removed) for the fracture unit waiting room at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital.  Getting off at Earls Court Station on his way to unveil it he fell over and broke his arm, which had first to be set by James Scott, chairman of the hospital arts programme.  Preparatory paintings and the painted cast for his arm are still in the unit.  The very popular postcard of the finished painting has unaccountably long been out of print.    An exhibition of Bert’s new prints is at Advanced Graphics, 32 Long Lane, SE1 (by Borough tube and St George the Martyr, the parish church of the parents of Turner’s agent/trustee Thomas Griffith – memorials in the church ) runs   11 October – 8 November.

Wednesday 11 February.  National Gallery, London.  6.30pm.  ‘Painting and Poetry … reflect and heighten each other’s beauties’ JMW Turner, by Duncan Robinson, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.   The Paul Mellon Lectures,  21 Jan. - 18 Feb.  £5/£3.

Just out!   Turner and the Lakes by Stanley Warburton.  The edition is almost exhausted, and so, if you want a copy, contact the author immediately.  22 Coronation Road, Lytham St Annes, Lancashire FY8 1BH (tel:  01253 735563).  Stan, in his 90th year, bases this on a lifetime’s admiration of Turner and the Lakes.  An artist and former chairman of the Northern Branch of the Turner Society, he was the author of Turner and Revd. Dr. Whitaker (Towneley Hall Art Gallery, Burnley, 1982).  He is planning next an exhibition on Turner and Cotman in North Wales.  He has been invited to give a lecture at Plas Newydd, the James Wyatt National Trust house on Anglesey, in September 2009.

Kelly Freeman of Dundee University has now made the digital scan of Turner’s death mask, allowing an exact comparison with the Cornelius Varley portrait questionably described as being of Turner.  The website detailing the investigation is just being relaunched –

To contribute to the cost of the investigation Robert Setters generously offered Canadian $ 1,000.  He has also sent me a copy of his book, Art World’s Dirty Little Secret (Kether Books, Canada, 2005; ), which attempts to authenticate the attribution of a large early seascape to Turner.  This contains many lively pen portraits of Turner scholars of recent times based mainly on the gossipy conversations of Dr Martin Butlin CBE FBA, formerly of the Tate and now of Christies.  I have reviewed the book for the next issue of ArtWatchUK Journal  ( ).

 Meanwhile another putative early Turner seascape, dated 1805,  has been acquired at auction and subjected to lengthy analysis.   This has been dismissed by the Tate “because it is signed and is on panel”!!!  A further complaint of the purchaser is that there are hardly any comparable seapieces on view at the Clore Gallery with which to compare this picture.  This highlights a more general deficiency of the Clore.

The big Turner retrospective has ended its run in the USA.  Numerous blogs by visitors have been appreciative in contrast with some rather jaundiced reviews by the American critics.  This shows how opinions are diverse and undermines the generalisations made by Professor Sam Smiles about attitudes to Turner over the generations based on what contemporary critics wrote.  No doubt the average visitor often echoes what critics and historians say, but others are capable of independent thought.  

The exhibition is now scheduled to go on to Moscow and then to Beijing.  In my letter in The Times (9 September) I wondered how Turner would react to this tacit mark of approval of Russian imperialism, citing his follower from the Crimea, Ivan Aivazovsky, who also exhibited pictures supporting Greek independence. (Other letters by myself have appeared in The Jackdaw ( ).)

Turner’s Temple of Jupiter Panellenius Restored and its pendant (belonging to the Duke of Northumberland) depict the temple at Aegina excavated by C.R.Cockerell and trumpet the cause of Greek independence.  The first is being sold by Richard Feigen at Sotheby’s, New York, 29 January 2009 (estimate $12-16m; he paid $1.1m in 1982).  It will be shown first in London and Paris.  The picture was, like Pope’s Villa, the subject of an engraving by John Pye.  That was dedicated to the Tory Lord Chancellor, Lord Lyndhurst, son of the American painter J.S.Copley R.A.  
The British government’s fine words about standing up to Russia have got lost in the subsequent financial crisis (foreseen by the late Jean Gimpel, author of  The Cathedral Builders (1958) and Against Art and Artists (1968 and 1991), 20 or more years ago).  Now charities have complained about their losses sustained from chasing high returns in Iceland.  When I challenged the Royal Academy about the decline in value of its Turner Fund, it claimed (though we now know that not to be the whole truth) that that was due to the bar on charities investing money for high (and so risky) returns, a bar causing the depreciation of capital over the years (letter from its then Secretary in The Times, 15 June 1990).  Now charities want compensation for taking such risks!

Among the casualties is Lord (Dennis) Stevenson of Coddenham, who has been chopped as chairman of HBOS for “failing to see that his chief executive was too reliant on fast-imploding UK housing market” (Daily Telegraph). He had also failed to see that the chief executive had no banking experience. When I challenged him about the treatment of the Turner Bequest at a Tate press conference (he was then chairman of its board), he gave an evasive answer and saw to it that I was not invited again.  He gave an even more dusty answer to a friend of his, the late Nicholas Meinertzhagen, who questioned him on the same matter in private.  

Robert Walmsley, who is founding a Ruskin Society in Paris,  has sent details of the conference held in Venice (Scuola Grande di S.Rocco and Venice International University), 25-27 September, Ruskin, Venice & C19 Travel.  This was sponsored by the Ruskin Project at Lancaster University and embraced a wide range of Ruskinian topics.  Two papers dealt with Turner:  “Lessons of Multiple Perspective: Ruskin, Turner and the Aspiration of Venice” by Carmen Casaliggi (University of Limerick);  and “The Magical Play of Sunlight in Venice:  An Enchanting Source for Ruskin and Turner” by Neshan Ermekçioğlu  (Hacettepe University, Turkey).  The obituary of Professor Michael Mallett of Warwick University, who was associated with Venice in Peril and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation (a benefactor of our research), and who received an Hon. D.Litt from Warwick last year along with Lady (Frances) Clarke, appeared in The Independent (14 October).  

A new book has been published by Jacques Poitras, Beaverbrook: A Shattered Legacy (2008 Best Atlantic Published Book Award).  This is an account of the dispute between the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in New Brunswick, Canada, and the UK Beaverbrook Foundation over the paintings left to the gallery by the Beaver, most notably The Fountain of Indolence by Turner and an early work by Lucian Freud.  A post on the controversy was made on 9 August by Craig Scott, Toronto gallery owner and professor of law ( ), and, besides, friend of Professor David Waterhouse, formerly of the British Museum and descendant of Turner’s cousin and nemesis, Jabez Tepper.  The book appeared before the result of the appeal in the arbitration proceedings.

From  J.J.Brown I have received a copy of the chapter on “Turner in Southwold” in Southwold: An Earthly Paradise by Geoffrey Munn FSA, managing director of Wartskis, and frequent performer on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.  Drawings from TB CCIX (?) are identified as representing Southwold, a few miles north of the lost port of Dunwich, Turner’s watercolour of which is at Manchester Art Gallery.  Our booklet on Turner's Essex, Hertfordshire and Suffolk, which will contain much new matter, is still in the chrysalis stage.

Yet another claimant to be a descendant of Turner has contacted us.  This is a woman in California, descended from James Turner, born in 1823 or 1828, reputedly the son of Turner by Hannah Danby.  He emigrated as a teenager, and established a meat packing business at Chicago.  Tim Marshall has been unable to find anything to substantiate this claim.

Professor Sir Curtis Price, the American Principal of the Royal Academy of Music, is the new Warden of New College, Oxford.  He discovered that Turner had been a scene painter at the Pantheon Opera House.  The Pantheon branch of Marks & Spencer has Turner’s watercolour of the opera house ruins.

Sir Nicholas Serota related in September that the legacy of Henry Moore, President of the Turner Society 1975-86, had provided £26m in grants to the arts world.

The Victoria Gallery & Museum, Liverpool, is the new (albeit Victorian, by Waterhouse) home of the University of Liverpool’s art collection, which includes Turner’s The Eruption of the Souffrier Mountains and 5 watercolours ranging from the naturalism of  Ambleside Mill (1798) to the wizardry of  Mount St Michael (1836).  The fine art is on the first floor beneath the Tate Hall and museum.

The latest minister responsible for museums (amongst much else) is Mrs Barbara Follett (hobbies: Scrabble, photography and Star Trek).  Sadly she has shown no interest in Turner, though her first husband bore that name.  (I met her fourth, Ken Follett, at the Gimpel salon, when he was looking embarrassed by the size of his first £1m advance).  Another junior minister in the Department of Culture is shared with Lord Mandelson’s department of trade, an indication of government priorities for the arts, helping explain the eagerness to despatch the Turner Bequest round the world and to forge links with Russian plutocrats.

Links         The Turner Museum, Florida, U.S.A.        Douglass Montrose-Graem, Founder of Turner Museum       Turners worldwide       The Turner Society (1975)                The Independent Turner Society  (temporarily at )                  The Setters Turners                       The Dundee Turner portraits investigation  The Ruskin Centre, Lancaster University      The Ruskin Library, Lancaster University            Brantwood, Coniston           Wordsworth Museum & Art Gallery, Dove Cottage             Musée de la Vie Romantique, Maison Renan-Scheffer, Paris                      Casa e Gipsoteca Canoviana, Possagno  Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen                  Museo Vela, Ligornetto, Switzerland              Musée National Gustave Moreau, Paris                 Musée National Auguste Rodin, Paris          Watts Gallery, Compton, Surrey, UK              Musée Picasso, Paris

Selby Whittingham,     28 October 2008.