Mario Naves reviews Turner’s Whaling Pictures at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, on view through August 6, 2016.
Naves asks: "Has there been an artist who called into question the material properties of his art with as much ferocity and concentration? The four canvases included in 'Turner’s Whaling Pictures', as well as the suite of Turner works featured in 'Unfinished,' a concurrent exhibition at Met Breuer, are marked by an astonishing painterly abandon. Scrabbled, roughhewn, and impossibly rich, the surfaces of the pictures feature any number of approaches to mark-making, all the while—and seemingly against the odds—conjuring up bracing fields of light, atmosphere, and place. As compendia of painterly incident, Turner’s work can’t help but make the surfaces of most art look like thin gruel."