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Most folks who have seen the works of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851) would understand why he is England’s most beloved Romantic landscape painter. The English art critic John Ruskin, himself a gifted artist, said of Turner in his 1843 book ‘Modern Painters’ (Volume I):

“For the conventional color he substituted a pure straightforward rendering of fact, as far as was in his power; and that not of such fact as had been before even suggested, but of all that is most brilliant, beautiful, and inimitable; he went to the cataract for its iris, to the conflagration for its flames, asked of the sea its intensest azure, of the sky its clearest gold.”

The tide of praises has not ebbed despite the passage of time. The Economist magazine’s review of the 2007 Turner exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington carried the effusive heading, ‘What incandescences! What dazzle!’. The article took special note of the fact that Turner was, as John Ruskin had called him, a modern painter: “As he grew old, Turner’s world turned, and he turned with it. He grasped the significance of steam taking over from the power of wind and horses. His steamships issue black smoke, adding to the range of colours in his sky.”

That Turner’s art endures is not only a testament to his inimitable handling of light, atmosphere and colour. It is a validation of the fact that the Romantic spirit is still alive in a world that has been deluged by materialism.

Behold the art of J.M.W. Turner:

Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight, 1835
Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775–1851)
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Approach to Venice, 1844
Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775–1851)
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Rockets and Blue Lights (Close at Hand) to Warn Steamboats of Shoal Water, 1840
Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775–1851)
Courtesy of The Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA

Fingal’s Cave, 1831 to 1832
Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775–1851)
Courtesy of the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Fishing Boats with Hucksters Bargaining for Fish, 1837/38
Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775–1851)
Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On), 1840
Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775–1851)
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Atrts, Boston

Learn more about the life and art of J.M.W. Turner. Download this free monograph:

An Eye for Art: Joseph Mallord William Turner

~ Barista Uno

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