Saturday, 16 April 2011

The painter of light

Today, 16 April, is the official opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery.

It is suggested that English artists were especially successful in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries because advances in the manufacture of paper  enabled watercolourists in particular to produce more finely detailed work.

Turner’s techniques were advanced, but his subject matter reflected the times he lived in. His landscapes and seascapes illustrated the natural world that inspired the poets of the time.

He showed how Wolverhampton looked before the Industrial Revolution took hold.

And in his two best known works he showed new technology and contrasted it with the past.

The Fighting Temeraire (1839), shows a steam tug towing the old sailing ship HMS Temeraire to be broken up.

Rain, Steam and Speed (1844) shows a train on the Great Western Railway crossing a bridge.

Both Turner's representation and railways themselves were disliked by many. In the same year Wordsworth was campaigning fiercely against the proposed Kendal and Windermere Railway. He wrote a sonnet to the Morning Post opposing the idea: 

Is then no nook of English ground secure 
From rash assault?

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) is now considered one of the greatest English artists. In his lifetime however his work was not always appreciated because of his impressionistic representation of light and colour.

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