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Sublime: The Prints of J. M. W. Turner and Thomas Moran


October 17th, 2014 - February 15th, 2015

Program Locations:

Rayner Special Collections Wing

Celebrated for his innovative landscapes that included arresting topographies, luminous light effects, and fearsome storms, British Romantic painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) published his Liber Studiorum (Book of Studies) between 1807 and 1819. The set signals the artist’s commitment to elevating landscape to a level then enjoyed by history painting, a genre that comprised representations of religious, mythological, and historical events. Evoking a sense of the sublime—a term the 18th-century philosopher Edmund Burke defined as “whatever is fitted . . . to excite ideas of pain or danger”—Turner’s Liber Studiorum conveys the full range of nature’s expression. Widely circulated, the series shaped the ways in which contemporaries came to regard the natural world’s more awe-inspiring qualities.

Among those drawn to Turner’s art was American painter and printmaker Thomas Moran (1837–1926), who traded his own watercolors for Turner’s Liber Studiorum and traveled to England in 1862 to experience the English master’s works first-hand. Unlike other artists of the Hudson River School, Moran did not rely solely on other printmakers to reproduce his works, but rather viewed prints as an important extension of his own creative process. Drawing subjects from his travels in Europe and America, he is best known for images of Niagara and the American West, all of which manifest a distinctly Turneresque sensibility. Examples of prints by Eugène Isabey, Charles-François Daubigny, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler further highlight Moran’s responses to contemporary artists and art movements.

Shown in adjoining galleries, the exhibition offers an unprecedented opportunity to experience side by side the British and American artists’ often complementary and sometimes divergent views of nature.

—Madeleine Viljoen, Curator of Prints, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs


This exhibition has been made possible by the continuing generosity of Miriam and Ira D. Wallach.

Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman.