The Turner Erotica
What do you do when a revered artist’s memory is about to be smirched, and the evidence lies in your hands? Nowadays, you write a triumphant book and are praised for redirecting history. In 1858, if you are Keeper of Collections at London’s National Gallery, and that evidence is a fistful of erotic sketches, you burn them. After all, the erotica was drawn by J.M.W. Turner, beloved landscape painter, now deceased. How could you let a man famed for coalescing mists onto canvas be dragged through the gutter?
It isn’t long before artist William J. Stillman gets wind of the destruction, and also that a few depictions of “flesh under the burden of passion” still exist. To ensure the drawings’ survival for posterity, Stillman steals them. He gives the drawings to a friend for safekeeping, but then the friend disappears. So does the Turner erotica.
Robert Begiebing’s The Turner Erotica shows us just how hard it is to keep a secret. For decades the obsessed William Stillman follows rumor and cold leads across Europe and America. However, he cannot possess the sketches without being charged with theft. If he can find Turner’s handiwork, who can Stillman possibly trust with it?
The events and people in The Turner Erotica are real, and so is the art, erotica and all. The award-winning Begiebing skillfully recreates the Victorian art world, delicious intrigues, and the foibles of the rich and famous. A fine read.