11th June 2019 Vienna, Austria
Turner comes to Gmünd
Are there 2,550 reasons to visit Gmünd, in Carinthia? No. There are 2551.
When I first started work at the Department of the Environment in 1979, I used to go once a week with a friend at lunchtime to visit the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) on Bankside. I was fascinated to discover the works of my namesake, Joseph Mallord William Turner.
Turner was a revolutionary artist. For me, his magnificent works presage the Impressionists, a movement which started shortly after his death in 1851. So I was delighted to be invited to open a Turner exhibition in May in the small town of Gmünd, deep in the mountains of Carinthia.
Gmünd is about four hours’ drive from Vienna but worth the trip. The picturesque, 13th century settlement has been transformed in the past 30 years into a “Künstlerstadt”, or “Artists’ town”, with a series of cultural events, including this year two British artists in residence. I was struck by the mountain scenery, the scenic town centre, and the friendly, art-obsessed population, numbering according to Wikipedia 2,550.
The Turner exhibition, which is on until 29 September, is housed in a historic tower above the city gate, and shows a series of priceless watercolours and historic engravings. I recommend a visit to Gmünd to see the exhibition, as well as the tiny town’s many other attractions.
Or, if you can’t make it to Gmünd, you may wish to consider a visit to the Tate Britain in London, to which many iconic paintings by Turner returned in 2016 after a major international tour.
Gmünd and London. Great to mention them in the same breath.