When we visited London in 2012, one of our “sights” was the Tate Britain, and one of our “sights” at the Tate Britain was the collection of paintings by J.M.W. Turner (1775 to 1851), the British artist who changed landscape painting forever. You see his paintings and you think Impressionism, you think contemporary art. You don’t think the first half of the 19th century.
Last fall, when we returned to London, we saw a special exhibition at the Tate Britain – Late Turner: Painting Set Free, which focused on his work from the latter part of his life. It’s a wonderful exhibition, and it’s still on through Jan. 25. Of all the paintings in the show, the one that appealed to me most was the watercolor pictured above – The Blue Rigi, Sunrise.
Last night we went to see Mr. Turner, the movie by Mike Leigh (he also wrote the screenplay). The movie, starring Timothy Spall in the title role, is almost “ekphrastic” – a film (or work of art) about another work of art. In many respects, watching the movie is like watching Turner’s paintings. From what I’ve read of Turner’s life and art, Spall captures the man almost exactly. Turner was not without controversy, some of it well deserved, and Spall plays the artist very well indeed. If you’re interested in Turner, his art, or early Victorian Britain, it’s a movie to see.
Here’s the movie’s trailer:
If you’re interested in reading about Turner, four books I’d recommend are:
Turner by Michael Bockemuhl (1991, republished in 2007)
J.M.W. Turner: The Man Who Set Painting on Fire by Olivier Meslay (2005; reprinted in 2011).
Turner by Peter Ackroyd (2006) (Ackroyd has written about virtually everything else in British history, and he does well with Turner and his art.)
J.M.W.Turner: Painting Set Free (2014) – the book that accompanies the exhibition at the Tate Britain.
Painting: The Blue Rigi, Sunrise, watercolor on paper by J.M.W. Turner (1842), Tate Britain, London.