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Another famous masterpiece of painting, the so-called "Pas de Calais," by the English landscape painter, J. M. W. Turner, has been placed on exhibition at the Fogg Museum as an anonymous loan.
It is a large picture of Turner's middle period, representing a wide expanse of sea with a flat bottom boat ferrying passengers to a packet with sails spread. These two boats form a large mass in the centre of the picture, while, on the left, a buoy floating on the crest of the wave and a group of small boats in the middle distance are balanced by a single sailboat and the pier and city of Calais, seen in the extreme distance at the right. The near point of view chosen by the artist permits of every detail in the two boats, which form the central subject of the picture, being clearly delineated. The larger one, seen from fore to aft, is lifted up on the crest of a wave surging against her side; the passengers and seamen crowding on the deck are painted with unusual animation and attention to detail. The warm-colored sails are brought down in beautiful reflections in the limpid water of the trough of the sea, and the transparent surface of the large wave at the left is finely relieved by a touch of opaque white light supplied by a sea gull flying close to the green water, the limpidity of which is further accentuated by the spume-fringed eddies on the surface of the trough.
This picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1827 under the title of "Now for the Painter (rope). Passengers going on Board." At the time of the Manchester exhibition, of 1857, however, it appeared under the title, "Pas de Calais," exhibited by John Naylor, Esq., who had bought the picture from Turner, and since then it has usually been known under that title.
The painting is characteristic of the sea pieces of Turner's middle period, in which he abandons the dark tonality of his earlier sea-pieces, but has not yet adopted the more impressionistic handling of his last period. The painting is carefully executed according to a very definite method of procedure, and the surface is beautiful in quality like those of his earlier works. In paintings of this type, Turner's method in its combination of under-painting, transparent glazes, and opaque scumbles suggests that of the great Venetian figure painters, applied to landscape. The whole picture is wonderfully luminous and transparent, and the delicate plays of light are very subtly and convincingly expressed. Most remarkable perhaps is the expression of existence in three dimensional space achieved by the carefully thought out design and the calculated execution.
The exhibition of this picture is particularly opportune at the present time, for in the Print Room of the Fogg Museum there has recently been put on view an exhibition of water-color drawings by Turner and by other artists of his time, which belong to the permanent collection of the Museum.
Professor Arthur Pope will hold a conference on the large Turner painting at the Fogg Art Museum on Friday, March 3, at 3 o'clock.
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