Who’s Greater: Turner or Titian?

dutch-boats-in-a-gale-by-001JMW Turner (his “Dutch Boats in a Gale” is pictured) was one of the most egotistical of all the 19th-century artists, with a firm belief that he was a match for any of his contemporaries – or indeed any painter who had gone before him. Now that lofty self-assessment is to be put to the test on an unprecedented scale. The Tate in London announced today that for its big autumn show this year it would hang Turner’s responses to some of the greatest paintings side by side with the originals. This rather potted-sounding exercise in compare and contrast makes me wonder: why doesn’t the museum give a device to everyone who walks in and ask them to rate which they prefer: the great painting or the Turner response?

The Tate exhibition, six years in the planning, was long thought unmountable because of the borrowing involved. About 100 paintings will be brought together and it will show Turner responding to and competing with artists including Titian, Poussin, Rubens, Canaletto, Rembrandt, Claude, Cuyp, Van de Velde, Constable and Ruisdael.

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