- Russ Ramsey
Joseph Mallord William Turner
For today’s Art Wednesday, let’s look at the work of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)—a fascinating artist who predated Impressionism but was very impressionistic. As we go, we’ll look at his works chronologically to observe the evolution of his style.
JMW Turner, Self Portrait, 1798
JMW Turner, like any master of impressionism or abstract art, mastered the fundamentals of composition and design. To break the rules, one must know the rules.
Turner, Interior of Ely Cathedral Looking Towards the North Transcept and Chapel, 1796
Much of Turner’s art is epic in scope—not a lot of close-ups, more grand vistas. His later work would show his love of the grand view of things. This one has a lot of fine detail. (Turner, The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire, 1817) #ArtWednesday #JMWTurner
Turner, The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire, 1817
Turner painted this piece long before Monet and the other Impressionists started attempting to render the atmosphere in their works.
Turner, Shipping off East Cowes Headland, 1827
Art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) referred to this as “the central picture in Turner’s career.” Here he straddles the world of detail and impression. Turner’s skies were inspired by 14th century Italian frescoes.
Turner, Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus, 1829
Turner’s works developed what some critics called a “near-completed” look. His detail is getting less defined, and his application of paint thicker, often painting with his palette knife.
Turner, Tivoli-Tobias and the Angel, 1830-35
One critic said of this work, “it appears a confused mass of daubs and streaks; yet the painter worked at it within a few inches of the canvas for hours without stepping back to see the effect.”
Turner, The Burning of the House of Lords and Commons, 1835
Turner painted works to show the horrors of slavery, which he accompanied with poetry. For his painting Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, he wrote,
Declare the typhoon’s coming.
Before it sweep your decks, throw overboard
The dead and dying—n’er heed their chains.
Hope, Hope, fallacious Hope!
Where is thy market now?
Turner, Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, 1840
That’s it for this Art Wednesday. I don’t know why I love this particular Turner, but boy do I. I think it’s my favorite. The first time I saw it, I was drawn in by a sense of power and mystery.