Three Horizons


Joseph Mallord William Turner has long been hailed as a revolutionary who helped pave the way for modernism. Colour attained a hitherto unseen freedom in his pictures. He began exploring the possibilities of landscape painting early on, by studying the former masters of the genre as well as by observing and directly engaging with the world around him. Turner experimented with the conventions, integrating natural science, myth, history and contemporary issues. Gradually, he pushed the boundaries of traditional representation. Soon his works loosened the bond that tied them to nature as it appears to the eye to such a degree that, in their reduction to colour, light, and atmosphere, they called the picture’s representational function into question. His art amazed contemporary beholders and sparked controversy. Posterity has celebrated his prodigious modernity.

Turner himself had a hand in weaving the enduring myth that surrounds him. Our exhibition investigates the question of how the artist trained and invented himself and honed his image. It examines the public strategies he pursued, for example, in exhibitions at the Royal Academy in London, but also in his experiments behind the scenes. Another focus of the project is on the response to Turner’s work from participants in contemporary debates over art as well as from later critics, to which he owes his renown as a progenitor of abstraction.

As part of the Lenbachhaus’s ongoing exploration of the history of abstraction, we have long wished to showcase Turner’s art in its full breadth. The cooperation with Tate Britain, London, which preserves his extensive estate, enables us to vividly illustrate Turner’s career and his pictorial innovations. We display around forty paintings and forty watercolours as well as sketches from all parts of his oeuvre.

Curated by Karin Althaus und Nicholas Maniu.

The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual publication "Turner. Ein Lesebuch" ("Turner. A Reader"), which brings together texts from around 200 years.
Edited by Karin Althaus, Nicholas Maniu and Matthias Mühling.
With an introduction by Sam Smiles and an afterword by Amy Concannon.
Edition Lenbachhaus 8, c. 400 pages and 100 illustrations, 22 EUR.
Order catalogue

The exhibition is accompanied by the series of events "Turner Talks" (in German). More information can be found here

The exhibition is organized by Lenbachhaus in cooperation with Tate, London
With generous support of Förderverein Lenbachhaus e.V.

"Turner. Three Horizons" is located in the Kunstbau. Kunstbau is an underground exhibition space of the Lenbachhaus, situated in the mezzanine level of the Königsplatz subway station. Time slot tickets for the exhibition can be purchased at the ticket office in the main building or in the online shop. Due to a potentially high number of visitors, we recommend purchasing your time slot tickets online in advance of your visit to the museum. Otherwise the exhibition may already be full and you may not be able to visit the exhibition until some time later or not at all on that day.

Visit information on "Turner. Three Horizons" (PDF)

Exhibition texts (PDF)

WAS TUN! Booklet for kids (PDF)

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Exhibition film: Turner. Three Horizons


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Installation views