JMW Turner - The Evolution of an Artist

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Turner was one of the greatest of all British artists. He worked extremely quickly, but the brilliance and originality of his painting is unrivalled. By the age of 30 he was a successful artist and a prominent member of the Royal Academy, yet he remained a gruff reclusive and intensely secretive person, renowned for his unkempt dress and meanness with money. Turner never married but had mistresses. The last phase of his life produced many of his most famous paintings, including ‘The Fighting Temeraire’, ‘Rain, Steam and Speed’ and ‘Peace’. He did not lose his zest for painting nature in the raw and went so far as to have himself lashed to the mast of the steamboat in order to sketch a storm. As a result of his experience, he painted ‘Snowstorm’ in 1842. Also he stuck his head out of a train window for 10 minutes to experienced the storm, before painting ‘Rain, Steam and Speed’ in 1844, at the age of 69. He was very aware of his own legacy. He left all his paintings and sketches to the National Gallery after his death.

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First created 11 Aug 2012. Version 1.0 - 21 Aug 2011. Jerry Tse. London . J M W Turner All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial and personal use. The Evolution of an Artist 1775 - 1851

Early childhood:

Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in London, in 1775. His father was a barber, who had a shop in Covent Garden. His father encouraged his artistic talents by exhibiting Turner’s drawings in his shop. The painting below shows Covent Garden, at the time when Turner was a boy. Early childhood

Turner as an Artist:

Turner was a full member of the Royal Academy at 25. By 1920s, we was very well-known. Turner as an Artist He is now considered one of the most remarkable 19C artists. Turner overshadowed his rival Constable.

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Turner studies watercolour paintings of Cozens.

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He also showed an interest in the colourful and dramatic style of de Loutherbourg.

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This is one of his earliest paintings. It already marked his interest in seascape drama. The Stormy Sea

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He also imitated the well-known Dutch seascape painter, Velde the Younger.

The Stormy Sea:

Turner’s version The Stormy Sea

The Stormy Sea:

The Stormy Sea

The Stormy Sea:

In 1802, Turner went on his first trip to continental Europe. On his crossing, he had a hair-raising experience at Calais. A year later he painted this scene of a turbulent stormy sea. The Stormy Sea

The Stormy Sea:

Desperation on the pier The Stormy Sea

The Stormy Sea:

The Stormy Sea To emphasize the stormy weather Turner used a darker tone for the waves and cloudy sky. It contrasts with the turbulent lighter colour waves in the foreground.

Early Landscape:

Early Landscape Turner made many trips to Continental Europe. This was painted soon after his first trip.

The Historic Landscape:

The Historic Landscape This is his first historic landscape, based on the Biblical story. He began a life-long love of painting natural catastrophes and destructions. Note how Turner used reflected light on the pyramid to signify Egypt, on an otherwise European landscape.

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Claude Lorrain was a French painter of grandiose historic landscape, bathed in golden lights.

The Historic Landscape:

This is Turner’s answer to Lorrain’s dramatic lighted landscape. It is displayed next to Claude Lorrain’s version, in the National Gallery, London, as requested by him. The Historic Landscape

The Historic Landscape:

The Historic Landscape This was inspired by Turner’s own journey across the Alps. The painting depicts the defeat of the invading army of Hannibal by a snow storm. Frequently, Turner depicted violent storms with apocalyptic whirling dark clouds in a vortex.

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The Historic Seascape The painting depicts Polyphemus, the Cyclops on the cliff and Nereids in front of the ship’s bow. Their forms are integrated with the natural elements of the clouds and waves. Polyphemus Nereids

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The Historic Seascape The blending of Polyemus and the Nereids with the mountain, the clouds and the waves created illusions of forces derived from nature.

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A Historic Seascape of his time The rivalry between Britain and France was at its height during the life of Turner.

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Romanticism is a major artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement in the 18C and 19C. It is primarily a reaction to the industrial Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment. Romanticism Seeing his painting in this light, gives us the insight into his obsession with the destructive forces of nature against human and products of the Industrial Revolution. It advocates that strong emotion is an authentic source of aesthetic experience. It also believes that nature, as an inescapable force in human destiny. It is capable of crushing man-made objects and human civilization.

Romanticism:

Romanticism Friedrich is one of the best known painters of Romanticism. Note the ship on the right of the painting is being crushed by the encroaching ice.

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Romanticism John Martin, the 19C English Romantic painter, often painted the overwhelming power of nature, on a grand scale.

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William Blake, John Constable, John Martin and John Waterhouse were some of the well known painters of English Romanticism.

The Forces of Nature:

The Forces of Nature

Views of Venice:

Turner visited Venice many times. His Venice paintings are often colourful but without the apocalyptic drama. Many of his Venice paintings are in watercolour. Views of Venice

Views of Venice:

Views of Venice

Views of Venice:

Views of Venice

Views of Venice:

Views of Venice

Views of Venice:

Views of Venice The painting shows the interplay of lights and delicate pastel shades. Houses, windows, bridges and boats are blended into this interplay and becomes almost indistinguishable.

Burning of the Houses of Parliament:

Burning of the Houses of Parliament Turner painted a series of paintings on the burning of the Houses of Parliament, with dramatic colours. In the painting, the fire was fanned by the wind and stretched to tremendous height over the Thames.

Burning of the Houses of Parliament:

Burning of the Houses of Parliament

Burning of the Houses of Parliament:

Burning of the Houses of Parliament

The Coming of an Industrial Age:

The Coming of an Industrial Age

The Coming of an Industrial Age:

This is one of his most popular paintings. It shows a veteran fighting ship, Temeraire, which fought heroically in the Battle of Trafalgar, being towed by steamer tug on the Thames, to be broken up in the wrecker’s yard. The Temeraire was painted in ghostly but nevertheless bright and majestic colours. This contrasted strongly with the demonic black tug, a product of the Industrial Revolution. The Coming of an Industrial Age

The Coming of an Industrial Age:

The blazing blood red sunset is a symbol of the passing age of the sail, replaced by the industrial era of steam. The painting was well received when it was first seen in the exhibition, The Coming of an Industrial Age

The Dire Vision of a Slave ship:

The Dire Vision of a Slave ship

The Dire Vision of a Slave ship:

This is one of Turner’s dire visions on painting. It shows slaves being thrown overboard with fishes feasting on the victim. The painting was inspired after he read ‘The History and Abolition of the Slave Trade’ by Thomas Clarkson. In 1781, the captain of the slave ship Zong had ordered 133 slaves to be thrown overboard so that insurance payments could be collected, as he could claim insurance on those who drowned, but not on those who died of disease. The Dire Vision of a Slave ship

The Painter of Light:

The Painter of Light In Turner’s later life, disappearing forms were increasing replaced by emphasis on the depicting of lights. His paintings became more and more like a sketch. His paintings were widely criticised as ‘unfinished’. Paradoxically it was these changes that earned him the greatest admiration today. Large part of his canvas became a battle between areas of light and areas of darkness. There was a companion painting to this painting called ‘War’, depicting Napoleon imprisoned in the island of St Helena. This painting showed the burial of his friend David Wilkie at sea.

The Painter of Light:

The Painter of Light In this painting the form of a paddle steamer became a vague impression. The waves. snow and winds were reduced to the turbulence of the brushstrokes, suggesting movements, as the sun momentarily broke through the clouds.

The Painter of Light:

The Painter of Light In the painting, Turner painted the man-made railway and the viaduct contrasting it with the light-filled natural landscape. The railway was emerging with the sun from behind, making its way through the winds and rains at 50 miles an hour, as it entered into our space.

The Painter of Light:

The Painter of Light

The Painter of Light:

The Painter of Light This is near pure light. The colours are bright. The lights are diffused. Forms are dissolved. Turner used oils with similar delicacy to his watercolours.

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Turner was a supreme Romantic painter and he was a precursor of the changing world of art to come. He had reached beyond the conformity of his age, often beyond the comprehension of his critics.

Precursor to Impressionism:

Turner’s later paintings were precursors of the coming of the Impressionism. In a letter signed in 1860s by Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Renoir and others, it acknowledged “that they have been preceded in this path by a great master of the English, the illustrious Turner.” Precursor to Impressionism

Arrival of Impressionism:

Arrival of Impressionism Some twenty years later, after Turner’s death, we saw the beginning of Impressionism.

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Beethoven is regarded as a composer of the Romanticism movement together with Paganini and Rossini. Music – An extract from Symphony No 6, ‘Pastoral’ – Shepherds’ Hymn after the Storm, composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial and personal use. The End

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