Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Galleries in Motion Lecture JMW Turner Part I

JMW Turner, self-portrait, 24 years old.

It seems like I just can't catch a break! Now that the weather is just a wee bit warmer and nicer I am down again with a nasty cold, and instead of catching the last bit of snow in a plein air painting, or even working in the studio, I'm on the sofa clutching a box of tissues and drinking green tea with echinacea and wondering if my head could possibly feel any worse.

While the rigors of painting are a bit too much when I'm sick, I'm usually guaranteed a poor painting for my efforts, blogging is a little bit easier.

On Tuesday I attended a Galleries in Motion lecture given by Joy Pepe, professor emeritus at Lyme Academy College of Fine Art and former curatorial assistant at the Yale Center for British Art. She spoke on the life and art of JMW Turner (1775-1851). There were over 100 in attendance, and it was basically standing room only.

Turner by all accounts was rather ill tempered, arrogant and competitive, constantly, (even from a young age), setting up his work in comparison to older masters with the intent of laying out a challenge: "my work is just as good, if not better".

Towards the end of his life he became more eccentric using aliases and living secret lives. He even wanted to be buried wrapped in his favorite painting!

Today we are intensely interested in Turner because we view his preoccupation with the effects of light, which later in his career brought him to the brink of abstraction, and his generalized forms and chromatic color as presaging modernism.

We also view Turner as a stepping stone or bridge to the French Impressionists, the first truly modern art movement. But Turner would have had none of the Impressionists cool detachment from their subjects. Impressionism focused on the observable effects of light and color, reporting on what was seen on the surface and no more.

Turner employed color with subtlety and control, perception and color theory all in the service of symbolism. His depiction of light was an expression of spirituality. His interest lay in the sublime. The expression of the natural world unmastered by the power of man, revealing the power of God. Concerns that would not have been shared by the Impressionists.
Tomorrow we'll look at Turner's techniques and what the critics said.


k. Madison Moore said...

Just all I can say. You always surprise me Jan. This is a wonderful piece!

tlwest said...

Hope you are feeling better all I can say is... me too - Have had a miserable last two weeks and drinking the tea - sick of soup- sick of being sick! couch duty is over for me - now I just tie a box of Kleenex around my neck... I had know Idea Turner was such a "cherub"

Jan Blencowe said...

Thanks both of you!