MYSTIC — Mystic Seaport Museum has added a new program this winter, certain to delight tea-drinkers who appreciate art.
Beginning Tuesday, Jan. 14, and running through Tuesday, Feb. 11, "Tea with Turner," a weekly lecture series accompanied by traditional British afternoon tea, will take place in the the dining room of the museum's Latitude 41° Restaurant.
The lectures will be given by five different speakers well-versed in the work and life of painter Joseph Mallord William Turner, the artist featured in the "J.M.W. Turner: Watercolors from Tate" exhibition now on display in the museum’s Collins Gallery. The series is a companion to the exhibit.
The speakers — Alexis Goodin, Constance McPhee, Ellen Harvey, Glenn Adamson and Susan Grace Galassi — will explore the iconic artist’s world, including his travels, techniques, and the time in which he lived — after tea is served to guests.
The first talk on Jan. 14, called "Turner’s Inhabited Landscapes," will be given by Goodin, the curatorial research associate at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Goodin, who recently curated the exhibition "Turner and Constable: The Inhabited Landscape," and wrote the accompanying booklet, "Turner and Constable at the Clark," will explore the significance of the human figure in Turner’s landscapes and discuss works in the exhibition as well as paintings in the Clark collection that reveal how Turner’s figures enrich and complicate his landscape paintings. More than markers of scale, according to the museum's program, "Turner’s figures contribute to compelling narratives that reveal social, cultural, and political concerns of Turner’s day."
The next talk, called "Turner and Switzerland," will be given by McPhee, a curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The talk will explore Turner’s repeated visits to Switzerland, focusing on four seminal trips that he made to the area around Lucerne in the 1840s. Switzerland’s terrain and history were central to Turner’s artistic imagination, and its mountains and lakes offered him life-long inspiration. Using The Metropolitan Museum’s "The Lake of Zug," 1843 as a touchstone, this talk will consider how the artist’s travel sketches offer fascinating windows into his process and supported masterful finished watercolors now regarded as highpoints of British art.
On Jan. 28, Harvey, an artist who contributed to museum’s recently published book, "Conversations with Turner," in connection with the current exhibition, will be discussing her own work, its relationship to J.M.W. Turner, and why she considers Turner’s work to be relevant to many issues we face today. Harvey, a British-born artist living and working in Brooklyn, is a 2016 recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in the Visual Arts and a graduate of the Whitney Independent Study Program. Her new project, "Ellen Harvey and J.M.W. Turner: The Disappointed Tourist," will be opening at Turner Contemporary in the United Kingdom in the summer of 2020.
Glenn Adamson, a senior scholar at the Yale Center for British Art will give the next lecture, on Feb. 4, called "Turner and Industry." Adamson will offer thoughts on Turner’s work in the context of the industrial revolution. Turner lived during one of the greatest periods of transformation in history, one with certain parallels to our own. His paintings sometimes captured the awe-inspiring power but also the trauma of these shifts.
The final lecture in the series, on Feb. 11, is called "From Mystic to New York: A Close Look at the Frick Turners," and will be given by Galassi, curator emerita of The Frick Collection. After examining J.M.W. Turner’s watercolors of the 1820s on view in the Seaport's museum exhibition, Galassi will shift the subject to New York City to look in depth at two of the artist’s masterpieces in oil from the mid-1820s, both centerpieces of The Frick Collection’s West Gallery. The luminous harbors of Dieppe and Cologne reveal Turner’s preoccupation with Continental subjects following Napoleon’s defeat and the lifting of travel bans. They also showcase the artist’s technical experimentation in which he brought qualities of the watercolor medium into oil paint, arousing the ire of critics and leading to a turning point in his art. In 2017, Galassi was co-curator, with Ian Warrell and Joanna Sheers Seidenstein, of "Turner’s Modern and Ancient Ports: Passages Through Time."
The tea will be served at 3:30 p.m., with talks beginning at 4 p.m. Participants are encouraged to view the show beforehand (same-day admission is included for non-museum members). Tickets are $30 per lecture, for members, and $135 for all five lectures and teas. For non-members, tickets are $35 per lecture, or $160 for all five lectures. Tickets can be purchased by calling 860-572-5331 or online at https://www.mysticseaport.org/tea-with-turner.