Frist Museum’s Art After Dark Makes a Sublime Return

J.M.W.Turner: Quest For the Sublime

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J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851). Venice, the Bridge of Sighs, exhibited 1840. Oil oncanvas, 27 x 36 in. Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856. Photo © Tate, 2019
J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851). Venice, the Bridge of Sighs, exhibited 1840. Oil oncanvas, 27 x 36 in. Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856. Photo©Tate, 2019

With the temperatures fluctuating so much, I can’t tell if it’s Winter or Spring, but I know there is already a rebirth happening right now at our city’s beloved Frist Art Museum, and that’s hot! This is a huge week, bold and exciting, after a brief slumber between exhibits in the Ingram Gallery and a remodel to the beloved cafe. Nashville nightlife welcomes back the Art After Dark series this Thursday, February 20, 2020, from 5-9 p.m., with fun, educational, enlightening and indulgent offerings.

 

If you start feeling creative, try the drop-in drawing class anytime from 5-8. In drop-in drawing visitors are encouraged to study the works of art in the galleries or the architecture of the building as they indulge their creativity with materials provided by the museum. From 4-6 you can channel your inner Ink Master with a hands-on studio session, with artist Elisheba Israel Mrozik conducting an ARTlab on Illustration and Tattoo Art.

There are many things in life I love, one of them is classical guitar. From 6-8 Classical guitarist Grant Ferris will delight guests as part of the Music in the Cafe series of performances. If you are feeling a little advanced, you can drop in on the Educator SPARK meeting and spark your creativity and curiosity with other educators. If you aren’t an educator, I’m sure they won’t mind if you want to participate in an informal idea exchange session or impromptu art-making activity. All of this builds up to the big reveal which is “J.M.W.Turner: Quest For the Sublime.”

What is the sublime? Today the word is used for the most ordinary reasons, like ‘Epic’. In the history of ideas, it has a deeper meaning, pointing to the heights of something truly extraordinary, an ideal that artists have long pursued. British artists and writers have explored the problem of the sublime for over 400 year. For artists throughout time the sublime has been an expression of the unknowable, and it therefore seems to have escaped definition.

The sublime is many things: a judgement, a feeling, a state of mind and a kind of response to art or nature. The sense of striving or pushing against an overbearing force is an important connotation for the word sublime. Edmund Burke stated in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful that the “Beautiful is that which is well-formed and aesthetically pleasing, whereas the Sublime is that which has the power to compel and destroy us.”

Joseph Mallord William Turner is considered one of England’s greatest artists and a leading figure in the Romantic movement of the late 18th through mid- 19th centuries. Long admired for his ingenuity, originality and passion, Turner strove to convey human moods and the feeling of awe aroused by nature’s immensity and power—it’s palpable atmospheres, pulsating energy, the drama of storms and disasters, and the transcendent effect of pure light. Experiences of awe, terror and danger are rendered by employing extreme contrasts of intense light and gloomy clouds, dramatic topographies and energetic brushstrokes.

J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851). The Deluge, exhibited 1805 (?). Oil on canvas, 56 1/4 x92 3/4 in. Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856. Photo ©Tate, 2019
J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851). The Deluge, exhibited 1805 (?). Oil on canvas, 56 1/4 x 92 3/4 in. Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856. Photo © Tate, 2019

The oil paintings and watercolors in this exhibition span Turner’s career, from the 1790’s to the 1840’s. Storm and flood are portrayed as compelling forces unto themselves, while also serving as settings for historical and modern dramas. Mountains and sea show the world in a state of flux: the slow creep of glaciers in the Alps, the sudden fall of an avalanche, the swell and heave of the ocean. Human transition is captured as well, with images of steamships and other suggestions of industry heralding the ascendant machine age. The exhibition concludes with elemental images of sea and sky, painted late in Turner’s life, which appear nearly abstract, drawing criticism from contemporary Sir George Beaumont, who described his paintings as ‘blots’.

Renowned author, essayist and Senior Curator 19th Century Art, David Blayney Brown of the Tate, will be giving a curator’s perspective presentation in the auditorium at 6:30. The Tate is an institution that houses, in a network of four art museums, the United Kingdom’s national collection of British art, and international modern and contemporary art.

Admission is free to Frist members. To non-members, Adult admission is $15, Seniors $10, Students $10, Military $8, and, with advanced reservations, group admission is $12 per adult. The best deal is to go ahead and get a membership. I got the Dual membership for $70 so I can always take a friend or a date, and that’s what I recommend. Student membership is $25, Teacher/Educator membership is $30 and Individual membership is $50. There are family memberships and VIP level memberships for every level of art lover.

The Frist Art Museum gratefully acknowledges the guidance and assistance of the Tennessee Disability Coalition and Empower Tennessee as well as the ADA National Networks for their invaluable wisdom and resources. The Frist Art Museum is the 2019 recipient of Empower Tennessee’s first Access Music City Business Champion Award.

The Frist Art Museum has also been certified as “Accessibility Friendly” by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau. On the first Saturday of each month, certified American Sign Language interpreters are available for both the 1:30 pm docent guided exhibition tour and the 4:30 p.m. Architecture Tour. The Docent-guided tours focus on one of the current exhibitions and require gallery admission. The Architecture Tours explore the Frist Art Museum’s landmark Art-Deco building and are always free. Reservations are not required for either tour.

I am really looking forward to the wide array of specials, exhibitions and programs that I can share with friends throughout the year, in an accepting environment that supports individuality, creative expression and engagement. I forget what a privilege it is. I find it ironic that a style that evokes awe and terror is called Romantic, but isn’t that the truth? I think of Impressionism as more evocative of Spring and romance, but they all died of Syphilis, while Turner died of cholera living in sin with an older woman. Now that’s romantic.

 

Art After Dark will continue throughout the year, every third Thursday of the month. There will be cash bars, food trucks, and live music, all free to members.

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