J.M.W. Turner is probably the greatest painter Britain has ever produced. Disturbingly original and astonishingly prolific, he rose from the obscurity of a barber's son to bequeath a rich and complex legacy. Paintings such as Rain, Steam and Speed have become British icons, and the phrase "Turner sky" is known to students of art around the world.
Despite this fame, or perhaps because of it, Turner's work has often been misunderstood, his intentions simplified. Here, Sam Smiles investigates Turner's artistic and literary influences, his political views, and the extraordinary evolution of his approach and techniques. Examining how Turner produced effects that lay beyond the competence of other artists--dissolving form, rendering diaphanous expanses of light, and using color with the utmost subtlety and control--the author contradicts Turner's own claim that his only secret was "damned hard work."
In the process, Smiles retrieves the meaning of Turner's art from critical misconstruings. He finds in Turner not a recorder of light and landscape but a fascinating artist who foreshadowed modernism and used landscape to deliver profound ruminations on society, politics, technology, and the human condition. Turner's sophisticated artistic personality emerges, rendering his art more compelling than ever.
About the Author
Sam Smiles is Principal Lecturer in Art History in the Faculty of Arts and Education at the University of Plymouth.
Table of ContentsAcknowledgements
1. Turner's Legacy
2. The Making of an Artist
3. Painting and Meaning
4. Picturing Britain
5. The Fascination of Europe
6. The Contemporary Scene
7. The Late Work