Monday, March 14, 2016

In the Beginning: J.M.W. Turner

Some readers might be tempted to think that when I mention that I'm not fond of paintings by Joseph Mallord William (J.M.W.) Turner (1775-1851), it means that I'm striving too hard to maintain my Art Contrarian credentials.

Not so. Ten or so years ago I was in the Tate Britain, where there are ten rooms containing his works. This gave me plenty of opportunity to see his paintings "up close and personal" as they used to say. And I didn't like most of the later, archetypical Turners that Modernist apologists gush over because of their near-abstract qualities. So there: I really, truly didn't like what I saw.  During later visits to the Tate, I never set foot in those Turner rooms again.

Background information about Turner can be found here.

Turner's painting were not always the wispy things he is famous for. He evolved, as most artists do. Below are examples of his paintings made when he was in his late 20s and early 30s. They indicate his focus on landscapes and marine subjects along with a growing interest on the effects of light and atmosphere.

Included is one painting where people are the focus, and I consider it inferior to the others, some of which I find fairly likable. Also included is a late painting (he was 65) that is somewhat at odds with the atmospheric seascapes he is most noted for.


Dutch Boat in a Gale - 1801

Holy Family - 1803

Bonneville Savoy - 1803

Windsor Castle from the Thames - c.1805

The Shipwreck - 1805

Cliveden on the Thames - 1807

The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizzen Shrouds of the Victory - 1806-08

Venice from the Giudecca - 1840

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