Interior at Petworth

1837

by William Turner

I did not paint it to be understood, but I wished to show what such a scene was like.” (J.M.W. Turner)

Interior at Petworth is the most mysterious picture among Turner’s late works and has puzzled generations of art scholars. The puzzle begins with the fact that no one really knows for sure what is being represented in the picture (at a time when abstract or non-representational painting was still unimaginable). What is certain is that it belongs to a series of pictures painted at the estate of Turner’s friend, George Wyndham. At the time the picture was painted, Wyndham had just died, and the picture is often interpreted as being a kind of farewell to the beloved wide halls of the Petworth estate that Turner now had to leave behind him for good.

Interior at Petworth is a space completely free of boundaries, a more or less associative collection of apparently recognisable objects which, even in their arrangement, break out of the corset of the recognisable.

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