Turner (British, 1775–1851). Turner's Thames ( Jun 2012.BBC); Whalers | ca. 1845
A highly readable life of England’s finest painter
The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W. Turner. By Franny Moyle.Viking; 508 pages; £25. To be published in America by Penguin in October.
NEITHER old admirers nor recent converts can seem to get enough of J.M.W. Turner. Franny Moyle’s biography, the latest of many in recent decades, is a fat, satisfying popular history of the man who was arguably Britain’s greatest painter. The book-jacket goes further, declaring Turner to be the world’s most famous landscape painter. Turner himself would have disagreed. His hero was Claude Lorrain, a 17th-century French landscape painter. Ms Moyle says he wept on seeing a painting by Claude on a subject that he had also tackled: “I shall never be able to paint anything like that picture,” he said.
Turner eventually outshone his hero by taking advantage of his momentous times. He quickly absorbed the importance of the Industrial Revolution, and was inspired by it. In his last 20 years, says Ms Moyle, he allowed himself to be himself, experimenting with colour and drawing inspiration from landscape. Magnificent works such “Rain, Steam and Speed” and “The Fighting Temeraire” being towed to the breaker’s yard by a steam tug (both hanging in the National Gallery) were the work of an adventurous and energetic painter. William Makepeace Thackeray thought the “Temeraire” was “as grand a painting as ever figured on the walls of any academy”.
Ms Moyle has not written academic art history; she is entertaining on Turner’s life and good on his times. Of humble beginnings, he was a prodigy who first showed his work, aged 15, at the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy (RA). He was canny, too, making sure of his place as an academician at the RA, both to enhance his social position (he needed aristocratic endorsement to succeed), and to provide an acceptable floor price for his work.
That price rose steadily. He was able to open an account at the Bank of England at the age of 19, and his fortune only grew. His clients were aristocrats and wealthy industrialists. In his middle years, he was in such demand that he could open a gallery in Queen Anne Street to sell his work. Before his death in 1851, an American collector offered the unheard of sum of £5,000 for the “Temeraire”, but the old man did not need the money, and kept the painting for himself. In search of new subjects, he became a tough and dedicated traveller, going by foot and donkey down German rivers, and across the French Alps, and to Venice, which he painted in gold, white and blue to reflect “a melancholic delicacy”.
When not playing politics at the RA, Turner was deeply private, especially about his romantic life. Victorian critics thought him “squalid, seedy and eccentric”, in Ms Moyle’s words. He relished the company of women, and his notebooks contained erotic sketches as well as landscapes. Initially, he lived with Sarah Danby, the widow of a composer. They had one child. A second child may well have been born to Hannah, a relation of Sarah’s who was his housekeeper. He later found himself with Sophia Booth, his landlady in Margate, which he had regularly visited during his adolescence. When his health began to fail, he and Sophia moved into an insalubrious street in Chelsea, where neighbours thought he was a sea captain.
Turner died there. His friends tried to keep his second home with Sophia secret in the belief that the publicity would destroy his reputation. It survived long enough, however, for the grand funeral that the barber’s son from Maiden Lane in Covent Garden had always hoped for to take place in St Paul’s Cathedral. He had richly deserved it.
Joseph Mallord William Turner was born on this day in 1775. In an upcoming exhibition, the Museum will reunite the series of four whaling scenes made by the British landscapist. The quartet of paintings—comprising The Met's “Whalers” and its three companions in the Tate, London—were among the last seascapes exhibited by Turner, for whom marine subjects were a creative mainstay.http://met.org/1U7PTXh
Joseph Mallord William Turner (British, 1775–1851) | Whalers | ca. 1845
In this documentary, the presenter and art critic Matthew Collings explores how Turner, the artist of light, makes light the vehicle of feeling in his work, and how he found inspiration for that feeling in the waters of the river Thames.
不必親臨倫敦，這問題，也可參考： 請看YouTube的 Turner's Thames ( Jun 2012.BBC)
Join us tonight from 6.15pm (GMT) for our latest Periscope tour, exploring Claude's influence on JMW Turner and why these two artists' works hang side by side in Room 15 of the Gallery. Learn more about how you can view the Periscope tour here: http://bit.ly/23oF85o