This exhibition shows Turner’s Paintings during the latter part of his life from 1835-1851. Turner a Revolutionary Painter of the 19th Century, revolutionised the use of paint and other materials , although living through the Victorian Period , He understand the great social and political changes that were taking place in Britain at the latter half of the 19th Century.

ARTS Turner 153266

Turner lived during the same period as Byron and Shelley , who also again represented Revolutionary developments in Art and Literature , much of Turner’s watercolours in Venice and Europe remind you of Childe Harold the setting of Byron’s great romantic poem which reflects the Napoleonic age together with the advent of Industrialisation. Turner was able to paint great watercolours reflecting light and colour. in all his paintings Turner showed subject and meaning together with a sun setting over a lake.



The Tate Exhibition gives a flavour of what Turner could achieve ” Turner’s understanding of light and colour developed over a life time’s practice reached its climax in these final works. However despite their formal and technical qualities and even at their most abstract these paintings maintained Turner’s commitment to subject and meaning”  [1].


The Angel Troubling the Pool circa 1845 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Turner went to Venice and other places in Europe to paint what he saw , he produced many fine watercolours using graphite , pencil and even gouache. He was concerned with natural scenery together with History and mythological characters. His concern was to show how Turner developed his art to represent changes in History , there are many references to Roman History and many artists took the great tour and that is where Turner used Watercolours to pain some of his greatest works during 1835-1845.


The death of Actaeon is a great mythological story about an episode in Ovid’s Metamorphoses .


The use of bright colours of a mythological period shows how Turner is reaching out to show dramatically great Historical figures from the past.


art Historians have written on Turner’s huge contribution to Landscape paintings. “his intent in these paintings was rarely purely illustrative or documentary  instead he exploited the potential of such subjects. The past offered lessons for the present, the present could be understood from a historical perspective”. [2].

On his return from Europe and his grand tours Turner concerned himself with representations at sea whether it be great sea battles or whalers or Slave Ships. this was at the height of the Napoleonic wars and Turner showed great sea battles as well as natural disasters. He once travelled on a boat during great storms that occurred.



The above painting shows Turner at his best as the Temaire which is being tugged back to shore. Turner shows his adept use of colour and light with the setting sun and blurring of images in the distance. He was a master of Linear perspective and the way you can see the coastline lit up, everything can be seen in this painting.

John  Ruskin in his Modern Painters (1842-1860) a noted Art historian at the time had this to say about Turner. “He argued that Turner’s greatness as a landscape painter , his superiority to the masters of the past lay in the way that he depicted even the most evanescent natural phenomena with scientific exactitude” [3].

The use of Atmospheric effects coupled with his attention to colour and light were important attributes of Turner’s greatness. “Turner did have a particular interest in atmospheric effects observing the movement of the sky and the water”. [4].



“The Clore Gallery in Tate Britain further testifies to Turner’s canonisation as a modern artist who prefigures not merely Impressionism but also Twentieth century” [5].

As the Turner Catalogue of late Turner painting set free argues “Turner’s commitment to a world understood as in a state of flux chimed with a particularly turbulent period in History. The stable and ordered world of 18c society had been blown apart by unparalleled  Industrial advances, urbanisation social unrest and agitation for political change”. [6].


The above painting above of the Burning of the houses of Parliament shows how Turner was able to use his use of colour with the burning embers shown up as bright orange lights. His knowledge of colour was learnt from Goethe the German writer and thinker who  wrote a book on Colour theory which interested Turner and he studied using different mediums of Paint, Oil , Graphite , pencil and watercolour.

As one art historian Commented  ” Painting would be set free from artificial limitations and an imperfect understanding of the History of Art” [7].

In this review I have sought to place Turner as one of the founders of Modernism. Some Art Historians disagree with this, but Turner’s use of colour and his blurring in many of his paintings would lead to Impressionism and eventually Non figurative art and Abstraction.

Turner’s status as an artist in my opinion is as ” Father of Abstraction”.

(c) Museums Sheffield; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Turner on Vanishing Day Charles Parrot.





4)        DITTO                                                           DITTO         PG.175

5)     DITTO                                                               DITTO         PG.178


7)      DITTO                                                            DITTO           PG.22


3 thoughts on “JMW TURNER”

    1. Keith, thanks for your comments My brother bought me the Tate Britain Book that went with the Turner Exhibition. My review contends that Turner was the Father of abstraction . I will accept that his colour theory was influenced By Goethe . Did you see the recent film with Timothy Spall playing Turner I’m told it was excellent . What a pity that Blake a Revolutionary artist living at the same time as Turner was not to achieve the greatness of Turner. Laurence


  1. Dear Humphries346, I did indeed get the DVD Mr Turner, brilliant acting by Timothy Spall, don’t want to sound a prude but there was no need for the sex scenes in Mike Leigh’s film, I think Turner the genius was misunderstood he liked animals and did not have a bad word to say about anyone, he was not as mean as people suggest hence the bequeath and did like the company of fellow artists. As for Blake you are correct sir, he was up there with Turner and certainly a greater poet. Blake’s engravings were wonderful, I love illuminating illustrations like the Celtic book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels, Marvellous.


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