Wednesday, 14th January 2004
Restorers sink steamer from Turner
showing a steamer
A MASTERPIECE by the artist Turner on display in Manchester
is at the centre of an international row about a missing ship.
Some critics are furious at the way the centrepiece of the
exhibition has been restored, saying that a steamboat has been
removed from the original. The American owners of the painting
and the restorer are adamant that none of J. M. W. Turner's
original work has been removed and say that a second boat may
have been added by an early 20th century restorer.
In the past two months more than 20,000 people have passed
through the doors of Manchester Art Gallery to see the
exhibition, Turner: The Late Seascapes, which is backed by the
Manchester Evening News. . Many have flocked to the Moseley
Street gallery to see the highly acclaimed Rockets And Blue
Lights (Close at Hand) To Warn Steamboats Of Shoal Water.
The 1840 painting was restored specially for the exhibition at
its home in America but its new look has been panned in some
quarters of the art world.
Artwatch UK, which campaigns against the over restoration of
works of art, and leading Turner expert Selby Whittingham are
dismayed by the job done by a conservationist at the National
Gallery in Washington.
The restoration of the masterpiece, owned by the Clark Art
Institute in Massachusetts, took six months to complete.
Artwatch's Michael Daley said: "The great scandal in this is
that they have claimed this painting is one of the stars of the
show when in fact it has been so wrecked that it should not have
left home. It should have been described as a badly damaged and
heavily restored painting."
Mr Daley says the fact that one of the characters in the
foreground of the picture is looking through a telescope toward
the far right of the picture is evidence that Turner included a
second boat in his original. Also, two 19th Century copies of
the pieces clearly show two boats.
version with the missing steamer drawn in
Mr Whittingham, 62, a former curator at the Manchester
gallery and an art historian, said: "We want a proper inquiry to
find out what has happened. They do not seem to have researched
the painting properly before they restored it."
Richard Rand, senior curator at the Clark Institute, said a
second boat had been added, probably in the early 20th Century.
He said: "We are absolutely certain we did not remove any of
Turner's paint. We removed overpaint."
He said if Turner had included a second boat then it had been
removed by an earlier restorer. He said the overpaint of that
section was "very shabbily done".
Manchester Art Gallery's Head of Exhibitions Tim Wilcox said: "A
leading conservator restored the picture, removing 70-80 per
cent of old re-paintings carried out by earlier restorers, which
were obscuring Turner's original. Manchester Art Gallery is very
pleased to be displaying the picture, which has Manchester
connections and is a particular highlight of the exhibition."
He said the viewing figures for the Turner exhibition, which
runs until January 25, were the highest since Manchester's 2002
Turner: The Late Seascapes runs at Manchester Art
Gallery, Mosley Street, from November 1 to January 25, admission
£5, free for under-18s, open Tuesday to Sunday,10am to 5pm.
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