Monday, April 1, 2013

Turner, Joseph Mallord William

The Slave Ship
oil on canvas
90.8 × 122.6 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

"The Slave Ship" formally "Slavers Throwing overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhoon coming on". In this classic example of a Romantic maritime painting, Turner depicts a ship, visible in the background, sailing through a tumultuous sea of churning water and leaving scattered human forms floating in its wake.

Turner’s own untitled poem, written in 1812:

        “Aloft all hands, strike the top-masts and belay;
        Yon angry setting sun and fierce-edged clouds
        Declare the Typhon's coming.
        Before it sweeps your decks, throw overboard
        The dead and dying - ne'er heed their chains
        Hope, Hope, fallacious Hope!
        Where is thy market now?"

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851)  was born in London, England. He is the one of the finest landscape artists whose work was exhibited when he was still a teenager. His father was a barber. His mother died when he was very young. He 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. His entire life was devoted to his art. Wherever he visited he studied the effects of sea and sky in every kind of weather. He developed a painting technique all his own. Instead of merely recording factually what he saw, he translated scenes into a light-filled expression of his own romantic feelings.

Turner was considered a controversial figure in his day. As he grew older Turner became an eccentric. Except for his father, he had no close friends. He allowed no one to watch him while he painted. 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.

Unlike many artists of his era, he was successful throughout his career. He 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. He is
commonly known as "the painter of light" and his work is regarded as a Romantic preface to Impressionism.