A late J.M.W Turner not seen for 30 years goes on tour

by Amy Marie Slocum

J.M.W. Turner. "Ehrenbreitstein" (1835). Oil on canvas. 93 x 123 cm. 

J.M.W. Turner. "Ehrenbreitstein" (1835). Oil on canvas. 93 x 123 cm. 

Seminal British painter J.M.W Turner’s work has been exhibited at the Getty, the Frick, the National Gallery of Art and countless other museums. But here’s your chance to see one very special piece that will be visible to the public for only a couple more months.

Sotheby’s deems "Ehrenbreitstein" “the most important oil painting of a German subject that Turner ever painted” and will be selling the masterpiece to one lucky person this July. The estimated price reflects the painting’s lofty status: Sotheby’s reckons the piece will go for $18.7 to 31.2 million. But first, it’s making the rounds at Sotheby’s various international galleries.

Turner is known as an essential ancestor in the lineage of both Impressionism and Abstract Expressionism and as the “painter of light” because of his innovative oil techniques. British painting specialist Julian Gascoigne said that by thinly layering oils like watercolors, Turner “imbue[s] his canvases with rich, hazy light . . . giving his works an unprecedented poignancy and power that has rarely been rivaled since.”

"Ehrenbreitstein," a late work painted by Turner in 1835, magnificently showcases the painter’s luminescent quality. The painting loosely depicts the eponymous ruined fortress sitting on a craggy hill overlooking the Rhine near the German city of Coblenz. This area—and particularly the fortress—appears frequently in Turner’s sketchbooks and is known as a gateway to the Rhine Gorge and its many similar castles.

But what is (still) in reality a dour, imposing contingent of buildings becomes as light and airy as the clouds that hang above it with Turner’s masterful touch. In the foreground, people luxuriate on the Rhine’s lush banks, but the details of their faces are vague. The whole scene is a misty pastel dream and looks as if it’s been fairy dusted with gold foil.

Although "Ehrenbreitstein" leaves Los Angeles today, you can catch a glimpse of the dreamy painting in New York from May 5 to 15, Hong Kong from May 25 to 31 and Paris from June 10 to 12.

Written by Kylie Obermeier