The life and career of JMW Turner: The character that laid the foundations for modern painting

The life and career of JMW Turner: The character that laid the foundations for modern painting


Rain, Steam, and Speed ​​- The Great Western Railway. Photo: Cindy LI.

Very few artists have such a lasting influence on art history JMW Turner. Living and working in 19th-century London, the British artist is famous for exploring powerful themes through both beautiful landscape paintings and modern machine studies. While Turner is considered a pioneer of Romanticismhe is most praised for paving the way for the emergence of modern art.

Right now, let’s explore with about Turner’s life and career, including his career development and the characteristics that make a difference in his painting.

Who is JMW Turner?

Joseph Mallord William Turner is an oil painter, watercolorist and printer. Born in London in 1775, he attended the Royal Academy of Arts at the age of 14 and opened a gallery at the age of 29. As a recluse and eccentric, he devoted his life to art. , with a huge treasure trove of 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolor paintings and 30,000 paper works by the time of his death in 1851.


Self-portrait, c. 1799 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons Art)


When Turner first started his career in professional painting, the Neoclassical school – a style characterized by “noble simplicity and grandeur” – was the prevailing art genre. So Turner created topographic pictures; Like his contemporaries, he sought to portray his subject as accurately and truthfully as possible. This approach is clearly demonstrated in his early works, the incl Fishermen at sea (English: Fishermen at Sea), his first oil painting for the academy. When Turner exhibited this work in 1796, it was met with a standing ovation, helping advance his career as an artist.


Work “Fishermen at Sea,” 1796 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

After the success of his first exhibitions, Turner traveled around Europe with the aim of hone his skills. In addition to the official studies at Louvre Museum world famous in Paris (France), he also finds inspiration in idyllic Swiss scenes. When he returned to England, he was so immersed in the theme of the landscape that he began to sketch with oil while outdoors – a technique that will eventually be adopted by Impressions.

Around the same time, Turner began experimenting with colors, brush strokes, and even themes. This shift culminated in compositions that blend beautiful perspectives of nature with glimpses of industrialization and unrivaled Romanticism, a movement to reject traditional views. painting system.


The work “The Blue Rigi, Sunrise,” 1842 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Tate Britain Museum of Art (London, UK) explains: “Turner is a master of marine history, landscape, and painting. He challenged the styles of the masters of engineering and subject matter,” Tate Britain explained. prefer. “Turner often shocked contemporaries with his bohemian drawing and vibrant palette while and the way he reflected the modern world development was unlike any other artist of the time.”

Characteristics important

The Art Of Using Impressive Color

An important element of Turner’s painting style is his passion for color. To emphasize emotions in a setting, he used vivid colors rooted in realism but boldly. A love for the colorful palette is evident in the bright sunsets, reflective waters, and multicolored clouds found in both his watercolor and oil paintings.


Works “Wreckers, Coast of Northumberland,” 1834 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Turner has conquered such rich colors through continuous trial and error. According to the Winsor & Newton, an art tool maker closely affiliated with Turner, he “constantly experimented with new pigments and mixing methods”, mixing “predominantly arabic glues with chewing gum and tragacanth mixed with varying amounts of sugar or honey “with the latest color varieties.

Unfortunately, however, Turner’s passion and attentiveness to new pigments and paints meant he was more concerned with the resulting effect than the long-term durability. As a result, many of his works have been significantly faded, making preservation a priority for Turner conservationists and collectors.


In addition to making full use of color, Turner also used a pioneering approach to penmanship. Using thick brush strokes and rough movement, the artist adds energy and emotion to his compositions. This method has been shown to be a particularly effective way to imply speed or movement. For example, in Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbor’s MouthTurner’s freehand drawing successfully captures the drama and chaos of a boat during a storm.


Works “Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbor’s Mouth,” 1842 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Like its use of color, Turner’s unique brush work was born from experimentation. British auction company – Christie’s note, sometimes Turner doesn’t even use traditional painting tools, he “refrains from using his brush to replace it with a palette knife or even his thumb to scrape and scatter colors on drawings. “


Turner uses vibrant colors and rough brushstrokes to capture the power and beauty of subjects in paintings, including landscapes, seascape, and modern technology. Usually, he combines all three themes in the same work, like the work Rain, Steam and Speed ​​- Western Railway Rain, Steam, and Speed ​​- The Great Western Railway) His most famous masterpiece.


Works “Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbor’s Mouth,” 1842 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Duplicate is a beautiful natural landscape and study of motion, Rain, Steam, and Speed ​​- The Great Western Railway, shows a train crossing the Maidenhead Railway Bridge above the Thames. In the foreground there is a rabbit running around and a boat floats peacefully below, the sheer power of the locomotive illustrated by swirling smoke and fuzzy shapes.

Impact on modern art


Image: Stock Photos – Alex Segre / Shutterstock

Although most consider Impressionism to be the catalyst of modern art today, Turner paintings are undoubtedly an inspiration to impressionist artists such as Monet, who have been introduced. introduced to Turner’s work in 1870. Because of Turner’s contributions to this movement, he is often referred to as a pioneer of modern art – although he died more than two decades before the Indian school. appears.

In addition, traces of Turner’s influence on the art movements of the Modern period are found in the work of the American artist. James Abbott McNeill Whistler. According to the Tate Britain Museum of Art, “Turner’s painting seems to have developed in the artistic crossroads between the young artists Whistler and Monet.” These similarities are illustrated in the Turner Whistler Monet, a major exhibition here.

Modern artists’ interest in Turner even existed until the 20th century, with the artist of abstract expression. Mark Rothko humor acknowledges the parallels between his own paintings and his predecessor Turner. The Russian-American artist even humorously shared that “The man named Turner has learned a lot from me.”

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