Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Great Romantic Artist

BBC Four can be relied upon to bring Art and Culture to the forefront of the minds of creative individuals on a regular basis and do not fail to do so with their recent feature on J.M.W Turner.


I welcomed the programme greatly as a self confessed Turner novice. Until around a year ago I had never quite grasped the fanatical appeal of Turner. I had always considered his works masterful and doubtlessly beautiful, but British oil landscapes and seascapes had always been slightly lost on me and failed to ignite the interest which Cezanne, Monet and even Dali's landscapes provided. However this changed upon my first visit to the National Gallery last summer. Having never seen Turners work in the flesh before, I was unexpectedly knocked clean out of my boots by 'Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus'. The sheer, incredible emotion of the piece and both the atmosphere and beauty it captured had me transfixed and totally speechless for some time.

Even now I still feel that Turners work simply can not be viewed in a book and understood or appreciated fully. The texture of the paint and the true colours provide an emotion and beauty which seem incapable of being replicated in print. Even my memories of pieces I have viewed in the National Gallery and the V&A seem far more vivid and detailed than images in books.

The programme focuses specifically upon Turners use of the Thames as a base for many of his compositions and takes an analytical look at his use of colour, technique and intentions, however much of the discussion is objective and simply a result of personal opinion. The narrative may have benefited from some more academic elements, however it provides an interesting overall observation and appreciation of Turners work.

One element of the discussion which did intrigue me greatly was the mention of: 'Was Turner an artistic radical and a conservative Royalist? Or just an artist businessman? ... Nothing is known about Turners politics'. I have been looking for a new, exciting avenue of academic research to embark on, to say that 'nothing' is known of Turners political stance is surely something which needs to be rectified?

Since seeing 'Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus' at the National Gallery, I have had a postcard of the piece on view at all times to remind myself of the sheer emotion which creativity has the power to evoke.

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