Art Wednesday_POST Header-01.png
  • Russ Ramsey

Joseph Mallard William Turner

For today’s Art Wednesday, let’s look at the work of Joseph Mallard 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.


Turner, Rain, Steam, and Speed—The Great Western Railway, 1844



LIKE ART WEDNESDAY?

GET AN EVEN DEEPER LOOK INTO THE LIVES OF NINE ARTISTS IN RUSS RAMSEY'S BOOK REMBRANDT IS IN THE WIND

Don't miss a thing.

Sign up below to stay up-to-date on Fathom columns.

RIITW Promo pic 1.jpeg

Where to find more from Russ

  • Facebook
  • Twitter