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2 September 2014
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Simon Schama's, Power of Art

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Turner

 


Biography

Full Name:

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Born:

1775

Died:

1851


One of Britain's most celebrated artists, Turner showed exceptional artistic talent from an early age and entered the Royal Academy aged fourteen. His English landscapes made his name but there was a darker side to his paintings that was difficult for the critics to swallow, both in the increasingly informal use of paint and the subject matter that was critical of the romanticised vision of Britain in the late nineteenth century.

Turner bequeathed 300 of his paintings and 20,000 watercolours and drawings to the nation. He led a secretive private life. He never married, but had a mistress and fathered two children. He died in a temporary lodging in Chelsea, under the assumed name of Booth.


Simon Schama on Turner


"In 1840 in London, an international convention of the Great and Good was planned to express righteous indignation against slavery in the United States. Turner, initiated into the cause many years before by his patron, Walter Fawkes, wanted to have his say in paint. So how does he do it? By being a thorn in the side of self congratulation.

He reaches back 60 years to resurrect one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the British Empire when 132 Africans - men, women and children, their hands and feet fettered - were thrown overboard into the shark infested waters of the Caribbean. And Turner has drowned you in this moment, pulled you into this terrifying chasm in the ocean, drenched you in this bloody light - exactly the hue you sense in your blood filled optic nerves when you close your eyes in blinding sunlight.

Though almost all of his critics believed that the painting represented an all time low in Turner's reckless disregard for the rules of art, it was in fact his greatest triumph in the sculptural carving of space."



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