Fishermen at Sea (exh. 1796) by Joseph Mallord William Turner. (c) Tate. License: CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)

Poll: Is Tate right to allow artworks in its collection to be reproduced on Dr. Martens footwear?

Jonathan Knott, 13.02.2018
Use of Turner paintings on boots cheapens works, says relative
The latest use of artworks owned by Tate on Dr. Martens footwear has provoked criticism after versions of the company’s classic 1460 boot style featuring reproductions of works by the English romantic painter JMW Turner were unveiled.

The shoe brand has previously used reproductions of Tate-owned works by other English painters, William Hogarth and William Blake, on its products. But its choice of the Turner works The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire and Fishermen at Sea has proved particularly controversial, with relatives of the painter criticising the move in the Sunday Times.

William Turner, who is descended from the artist’s grandparents, said: “It’s just not on. It does cheapen his works.”

And Julian Spalding, a former director of museum services in Sheffield, Manchester and Glasgow, told the newspaper: “The Tate should have nothing to do with this. It’s nothing to do with increasing people’s understanding and enjoyment of Turner, which is the Tate’s mission and why the Tate is supported by public money.”

However, Tate said: “It is common for artworks to be reproduced on objects and fashion both in museums and beyond.”

Boots featuring each of the paintings are selling on the Dr. Martens website for £140 a pair. The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire also features on an 11-inch satchel, priced at £110, while Fishermen at Sea is used for a T-shirt costing £45.

The product page for the T-Shirt says: “Turner remained an enigmatic figure and true original to the end, living by his own rules — an outlook embodying the spirit of Dr. Martens.”

Is Tate right to allow the use of reproductions of artworks in its collection on the classic boot style? Have your say in the Museums Journal poll.


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13.02.2018, 19:00
Perhaps we could illustrate this article with an image of one of JMW Turner's lesser known works, Storm in a Teacup.