Newsletter 8 December 2015

The Independent Turner Society

Turner House, 153 Cromwell Road, London SW5 OTQ, Great Britain

Tel & Fax:  020 7373 5560;  Mobile:  07535 971579  

President:   Douglass Montrose-Graem                                           Chairman:    Robert Walmsley                                          Treasurer:   Dominique Lambert                                                      Secretary:    Selby Whittingham

The Circumlocution Office

Ferdinand Barnacle:  ‘Look at it from the right point of view, and there you have us – official and effectual.  It’s like a limited game of cricket.  A field of outsiders are always going in to bowl at the Public Service, and we block the balls.’

Clennam asked what became of the bowlers?  The airy Young Barnacle replied that they grew tired, got dead beat, got lamed, got their backs broken, died off, gave it up, went in for other games.

The late Cllr Ivor Turner, alive to the stalling tactics satirised by Dickens, expressed the hope that after the efforts of his father and of others over the last 160 years to obtain justice for Turner we would not succumb to such despair.   Among those who have so far blocked their and our balls has been Lord Stevenson, onetime chairman of the Tate and also of  HBOS, the recent report on which has found him and others guilty of a ruinous passion for expansion and lending, tendencies which have characterised the Tate over the last 15 years to the further overthrow of  Turner’s Gallery.  Other failures – such as its sacking of most of its Turner specialists (one who has managed to hang on now known as “Tite Barnacle”) – are very minor in comparison.

Dr Bendor Grosvenor in his arthistory blog has just voiced his fundamental disagreement with the former Director of Tate Britain, Dr Stephen Deuchar, who declares that art belongs to the people with the corollary that the rights of private property are of no consequence.  Other curators share the Deuchar view.  If a bequest such as Turner’s is viewed simply as public property, in effect that means that the curators are licensed to do with it as they, not the artist or donor or indeed public, like.  Malaises affecting the art / museum world were the subject of the interesting conference Art, Law & Crises of Connoisseurship held on 1 December.  No one from the Tate was apparently present – but nor were there any collectors or donors, though.

Christmas Books

Realisation: From Seeing to Understanding (Wilmington Square £8.99) by Julian Spalding,

former Master of the Guild of St George (an art book of the year – The Times).

Weatherland:  Writers & Artists Under English Skies (Thames & Hudson £24.95) by

Alexandra Harris.

Turner and Music by Ivan Moseley (125 pp, obtainable from the author, 65 St Mary’s Grove,

London W4 3LW).  Cf Tim Whitehead’s blog (below).

William Towler Kingsley 1815-1916 – from Waterloo to the Somme or Jane Austen to Virginia Woolf by Helen Crawford (£4.55 from the author,  Church View Cottage, South Kilvington, Thirsk, N.Yorks, YO7 2NN; cheques payable to “Helen Gleave”).

Helen Crawford in her delightful booklet relates some of the well-known stories of Turner and Kingsley, who was one of a number of clerics who were also amateur artists (Kingsley much else besides) who became close friends of Turner –  Robert Nixon, Henry Scott Trimmer and Edward Thomas Daniell, to whom may be added he who “should have become a bishop”, John Ruskin, also a close friend of Kingsley.  I was drawn to Kingsley and his church at South Kilvington in 1980 by a disregarded exchange between Turner and him to the effect that the former had learnt more from Watteau than from any other artist.  Those few who have noted it have thought improbably Turner’s interest lay in Watteau’s subjects, whereas it was surely much more in his colour technique.  Turner’s first Watteauesque subject was exhibited in 1822 (now at The Clark, U.S.A.), the year to which Prof. Gerald Finley has assigned Turner’s adoption of a “new route” to colour.  What will the exhibition at Aix (see below) say?


19 December 2015.  Anniversary of Turner’s death

20 April 2016.  37th Kurt Pantzer Memorial Lecture. Turner and Oxford, lecture by fellow Orielensis Dr Colin Harrison (author of the 2000 Ashmolean account, which has been supplemented by our From Brentford to Oxford …). 6 for 6.30 at The Royal Asiatic Society, 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD –  a comedown from its former premises opposite Turner’s in Queen Anne St., where I once gave my surprising talk on Turner’s Indian Views.

23 April.  Turner’s birthday.  400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare.

Launch of vol. 1 of Eric Shanes’s biography of Turner (Yale U.P.).  Franny Moyle’s shorter one to follow soon after.

4 May – 18 SeptemberTurner (précurseur de l’impressionnisme), catalogue by Ian Warrell focusing on Turner’s use of colour. Caumont Centre d’Art, Aix-en-Provence; then at Margate


There are a number of new, or rejigged websites, though the Tate’s Turner one (2002) continues to frustrate its users.

The Independent Turner Society

The J.M.W.Turner Museum

Turner’s patron B.G.Windus (Margaret Burr)

Turner’s sites (Prof. David Hill)

The Turner Society

Jazz interpretation of Turner (Tim Whitehead)

Shipwreck, The Rescue, c.1802, and the perils of connoisseurship

Ken Howard RA’s and Turner’s Swiss tours


F. Bernard Thompson, of the Foreign Office, amateur genealogist.  See separate notice.

Brian Sewell, art critic.  (I wrote on his support in ArtWatch UK Journal, 30, Autumn 2015).

Richard Golding Constable, artist and advocate of a greater Constable gallery at the Tate.

Prof Van Akin Burd, 101. The leading Ruskin scholar of his generation.  His invaluable

edition of the Ruskin family letters down to 1843 should be carried forward to 1850s, 60s.

In my last newsletter I referred to the 30-year troubles at Turner House, which have been multiplied by circumlocutionary evasions which have now been exposed. These troubles continue, however, but those over the threatened Haybridge Hall, Telford, have been overcome by the vigorous persistence of Brenda Riley, who has set us an example to emulate.

Subscriptions (£10) are due for renewal on 1 January for all except those who have joined in the last 6 months.

Selby Whittingham      8 January 2015