Art News: Turner's Royal Flush
England's greatest landscape painter, the 19th-century artist J.M.W. Turner, shuttled restlessly among his patrons' estates, sketching at each stop. At Petworth House, the Earl of Egremont's 17th-century mansion 50 miles southwest of London, he produced nearly 120 watercolors and dozens of oil paintings (the earl bought at least 20 canvases). Petworth now has the largest Turner collection outside London. The National Trust recently restored parts of the house, including the library where the artist worked (the easel purported to have been his is still there) and a limewood-paneled room (carved by Grinling Gibbons, a royal favorite) hung with his Petworth landscapes. Through September 29, Tate Britain is supplementing the permanent displays with 70 works Turner created on-site, many of which depict rooms crowded with the kindly earl's other houseguests. Petworth house, West Sussex; 44-1798/342-207; www.turneratpetworth.com.
The Bee's Knees
The appetite for Richard Avedon's photographs doesn't abate. This exhibition claims to be "a vast collective portrait of America in the second half of the 20th century." Believe it: Buster Keaton, Truman Capote, Alger Hiss, Ike, Willem de Kooning, Warhol and his superstars, the Chicago Seven, Vietnam War generals, grizzled drifters, and Avedon's own father are all in this glorious gallery of the famous, the infamous, and the anonymous. "Richard Avedon: Portraits," Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Sept. 26-Jan. 5. ¥ "Pierre Bonnard: Early & Late" takes a fresh look at the French master's diverse work. The more than 130 paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, and decorative screens make clear that this artist, often dismissed as bourgeois, was a radical innovator who circumvented Cubism to embrace color. Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Sept. 22-Jan. 19.
Performance: Heavenly Creatures
French composer Olivier Messiaen's masterwork, Saint François d'Assise, had its premiere in Paris in 1983 but has been staged only three times since, and always in Europe. Now, thanks to the adventurous San Francisco Opera, Messiaen's modern retelling of the life of the early-13th-century monk receives its American debut. Intensely mystical, yet dazzlingly sensuous, the complex score gives full expression to Saint Francis's spiritual journey, including a re-creation of his sermon to the birds--with birdsong. The production, in eight tableaux, involves the largest number of performers in the company's history: a 100-member orchestra and a chorus of 120, with bass-baritone Willard White in the title role. Soprano Laura Aikin sings the radiant Angel's music. Six performances, Sept. 27-Oct. 17; 415/864-3330.
--Mario R. Mercado