J.M.W. Turner
– Sun is God

J.M.W. Turner
– Sun is God

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Golden Bough (exhibited 1834), Oil paint on canvas. Presented by Robert Vernon 1847. Photo: Tate

With more than a hundred works by the British painter J.M.W. Turner, and organized in collaboration with Tate, ARoS takes the audience on an unrivalled tour through the artist’s romantic landscapes, begging slow looking.

16 OCTOBER 2021 till 6 MARCH 2022, LEVEL 5

On 16 October 2021, ARoS opens its doors to the exhibition J.M.W. Turner – Sun Is God. The exhibition presents twenty-four oil paintings and eighty watercolours by J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851), known worldwide for his atmospheric landscapes.

- We are extremely pleased to open the exhibition J.M.W. Turner – Sun Is God and, after several years of preparation, to present visitors with his sublime universe. His work with light, weather and atmospheric phenomena, and his understanding of how the experience of a work of art is affected by colour and light, has inspired many notable artists in succeeding generations, says Lise Pennington, acting director, ARoS.


Through seven themed sections, the exhibition illuminates specific aspects of Turner’s art; from his early production in the 1790s to his late, more atmospheric works of the mid to late 1840s. It demonstrates Turner’s mastery at depicting atmospheric conditions and the mighty forces of nature with truly extraordinary precision and expressiveness. Storms, clouds, rainbows, fogs, fires, and the moon were reoccurring motifs in Turner’s imagery, but the sun was undoubtedly his most beloved subject.

Turner mastered both oil painting and watercolour, innovatively mixing the two techniques. He frequently primed his canvases with a white ground, before applying thin, transparent layers of colour to create a luminous effect.

- We will be showing both oil paintings and watercolours in the exhibition, all of them loaned to us from Tate. Watercolours comprised a major part of Turner’s production, both as sketches and as finished works, and they meant a lot to him as a visual artist. He used them, for example, to experiment with the influence of light on the things we see. Moreover, he was dramatic. He loved contrasts and paradoxes and we naturally wanted to reflect this in the exhibition, says Maria Kappel Blegvad, curator, ARoS.

Turner insisted on the primacy of emotions and imagination rather than on the representation of a concrete, visible reality. His art is based on memory, invention and synthesis, but also on a fascination with life in all its grandeur, ferocity, beauty and mystery.

- Turner applied a unique and, some thought, controversial facture which was characterised by his use of contrasts and a constant alternation between light and darkness, underpinning the moods he wanted to express in his art, says Maria Kappel Blegvad.


Turner’s use of contrasts is reflected in the exhibition at ARoS. Visitors are initially guided through a dark room, as were some of those who visited Turner in his home and gallery in London. They were told to remain a while in the darkness before being allowed to enter the gallery. According to Turner, darkness serves an essential purpose by cleansing the mind of preceding impressions, enhancing the faculty of sight, and thus intensifying the experience of seeing the works.

 - Turner was interested in contrasts and paradoxes and the exhibition architecture is designed in line with his artistic universe. We have incorporated mood changes and alternations between light and darkness, and we have integrated a few surprises into the architecture to emphasise Turner’s stage-managed approach to landscape painting, continues Maria Kappel Blegvad.


In connection with the exhibition, an extensive book will be published by ARoS in collaboration with Tate and Strandberg Publishing. The book comprises essays by David Blayney Brown, Amy Concannon, and Maria Kappel Blegvad. In addition to the three main articles, which address various aspects of Turner’s life and work, the book contains seven thematic texts about Turner, a timeline, and artist’s statements from a number of contemporary artists.

Turner’s works have inspired several artists in succeeding generations, including James Turrell, Olafur Eliasson, Janet Cardiff, John Akomfrah, Darren Almond, and Tracey Emin, who all contribute statements to the book, exploring their kinship with Turner.

For more information about the book, please contact Strandberg Publishing: Mette Wibeck Olsen,  mette@strandbergpublishing.dk

Press photos may be downloaded free of charge from Dropbox when citing the name of the photographer.

The exhibition has been created in collaboration with:


The exhibition has been made possible thanks to generous financial support from:

A. P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal

For further information:

Maria Kappel Blegvad


T: - E: mkb@aros.dk