J.M.WW. Turner created a revolution in painting at the beginning of the 19th century, responding to a modern industrial landscape with a freer style and new approaches to composition. Yet a lasting dialogue with the 17th-century painter Claude Lorrain lay at the heart of these developments. By juxtaposing works by Turner with those of his mentor, Claude, it's possible to see how greatly Turner was influenced by Claude early on in his career. It highlights how Turner grew and how his style changed - to a point where he outgrew and out-shone Claude. Turner's ability to paint light reflections on water are truly incomparable.
His work was exhibited when he was still a teenager. His entire life was devoted to his art. Unlike many artists of his era, he was successful throughout his career. Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in London, England, on April 23, 1775. His father was a barber. His mother died when he was very young. The boy received little schooling. His father taught him how to read, but this was the extent of his education except for the study of art. By the age of 13 he was making drawings at home and exhibiting them in his father's shop window for sale. Turner was 15 years old when he received a rare honor--one of his paintings was exhibited at the Royal Academy. By the time he was 18 he had his own studio. Before he was 20 print sellers were eagerly buying his drawings for reproduction. He quickly achieved a fine reputation and was elected an associate of the Royal Academy. In 1802, when he was only 27, Turner became a full member. He then began traveling widely in Europe.
Travel in Europe allowed him to study great artists, learn from them, and find ways to integrate what he learned into his own paintings. Almost from the beginning his work was saturated with light and color, and he showed a love of atmospheric effects – clouds, mist, fog, showers, spray, storms, fire, smoke. In his later work, both in oil and watercolor, his unique voice became stronger and stronger, and his paintings were more and more an expression of his own feelings, of his own imagination, more and more designed to evoke feelings in the viewer.
Rain, Steam and Speed The Great Western Railway
Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway; the painting depicts an early locomotive of the Great Western Railway crossing the River Thames on Brunel's completed Maidenhead Railway Bridge.The painting is also credited for allowing a glimpse of the Romantic strife within Turner and his contemporaries over the issue of the technological advancement during the Industrial Revolution. Turner was a well traveled man, frequently trekking to natural wonders of mainland Europe and the British Isles to sketch them in one of his dozens of notepads. He knew of the pains one must take to travel off the beaten path and wrote of one such occasion, traveling from Rome to Paris, to a friend in 1829: “…we never could keep warm or make our day’s distance good, the places we put up at proved all bad till Firenzola being even the worst for the down diligence people had devoured everything eatable (Beds none)…crossed Mont Cenis on a sledge – bivouaced in the snow with fire lighted for 3 Hours on Mont Tarate while the diligence was righted and dug out, for a Bank of Snow saved it from upsetting – and in the walk up to our knees in new fallen drift to get assistance to dig a channel thro’ it for the coach, so that from Foligno to within 20 miles of Paris I never saw the road but snow!”
Fifteen years later, Turner’s 1844 masterpiece, Rain, Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway, in a way recognizes his thrill in the speed of the new coal train and his appreciation for such technology when traveling. Yet, he subtly recognizes the progressive threat that humans pose towards the cradle of the earth. The title follows the Turner pattern of 'nature first' in his titles, but at once you see what looks like a monstrous kiln underneath the rail bridge, and flames engulfing the ecstatic figures on the far side of the river. On top of the bridge you see the face of a demon with the body of a coal burning centipede, which itself looks like a line of glowing embers. Ahead of the train it is hard to spot the tiny hare at full sprint, trying to stay ahead of the state-of-the-art technology of the mid-1800’s. What is so interesting about this piece, Olivier Meslay points out in his book J.M.W. Turner: The Man Who Set Painting on Fire, is that “the notion of the sublime was no longer confined to natural phenomena, but incarnated in machines created by humanity with god-like aspirations, whose new power it served to magnify” and begs to question; what should we fear more, the awe of the wild, or the annihilation of it?
Ancient Italy - Ovid Banished from Rome
Buttermere Lake with Part of Cromackwater, a Shower
It’s a romantic painting, all about feeling. And it feels monumental. The painting is filled with massy shapes. Clouds massed in the sky, mountains in the background, crags around the water. Lights and darks seem shaped and molded into land and sky. Within these masses both vegetation and people appear small, immaterial. Light illuminates the background; the foreground is dark and shadowed. Cutting through the surrounding darkness the rainbow looks like an arc of light, catching the gleams of the sun behind the looming mountains, and bringing its rays closer, down to earth. There is rain in the dark clouds and dark shadows. A shower, Turner says, and it adds a misty feel as you peer through it. Yet he makes it feel like more, like something important, something that mirrors the movement of sun and shadow through our lives. Those caught in it, like the two in their small boat, can only wait for the shower to pass, and for the sun to reach where they are; meantime the rainbow brings the promise of the sun closer.
Dido Building Carthage
Burial at Sea
Although known for his oils, Turner is regarded as one of the founders of English watercolor landscape painting. Some of his most famous works are Calais Pier, Dido Building Carthage, Rain, Steam and Speed, Burial at Sea, and The Grand Canal, Venice.(ibiblio.org)
Scarborough Town and Castle Morning
Boys Catching Crabs
Bridgeman Art Library
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
Ploughing up turnips near Slough
J. M. W. Turner’s intense and sublime Romantic landscapes are a world away from the controversy that surrounds the eponymous award. Like no artist before him, Turner channelled the potential of luminous colour washes, rhythmic brushwork and evocative lighting to elevate Romanticism to a whole new level of transcendence. A master of both watercolors and oils, Turner built on the influence of Claude Lorrain to develop a wholly distinctive style. Yet having earned respect and reverence from critics including John Ruskin, Turner changed his approach to a more liberal form of painting in a move that would have implications far beyond his own lifetime; laying the foundations of Impressionism and sowing the seed of what would eventually become abstract art.
(artfinder.com)As he grew older Turner became an eccentric. Except for his father, with whom he lived for 30 years, he had no close friends. He allowed no one to watch him while he painted. He gave up attending the meetings of the academy. None of his acquaintances saw him for months at a time. Turner continued to travel but always alone. He still held exhibitions, but he usually refused to sell his paintings. When he was persuaded to sell one, he was dejected for days. In 1850 he exhibited for the last time.
One day Turner disappeared from his house. His housekeeper, after a search of many months, found him hiding in a house in Chelsea. He had been ill for a long time. He died the following day - Dec 19, 1851. Turner left a large fortune that he hoped would be used to support what he called "decaying artists." His collection of paintings was bequeathed to his country. At his request he was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.