Thursday, March 3, 2011

!00 paintings an artist should know. JMW Turner

47) The fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up.
by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

The son of a barber, Turners mother died in an insane asylum. At age ten he was sent to be raised by an uncle. Showing an early talent for art he entered the Royal Academy school at fourteen years old. Turner traveled extensively in France and Italy to study the masters. The painting above is one of his best known and is typical of his style. He liked to paint wild effects of weather and use brilliant and exotic color schemes. He often chose to make his subject obscured or even near impossible to decipher, as his paintings are often full of swirling color and have strange tilted vantage points. He is particularly popular today as his work is seen as a precursor to modern or expressionist painting. Many of his paintings are enormous.

48) Keelmen heaving coals by night. Someone asked me in the comments if this was really a list of paintings an artist should know or of painters an artist should know. I guess it is more the latter. I am selecting the artists and the finding either a well known painting by the artist or my particular favorites. Perhaps I could have called the series "some really cool paintings by dead people". There are so many grand and important Turners that it was particularly hard to choose among them. I thought that the silvery tone of this picture would better show his coloristic range than only brightly colored examples.

49) Hannibal and his army crossing the Alps. This is more about some wild weather effects than Hannibal, I don't see any elephants, do you? Part of the reason that Turners paintings look the way they do is because he used a lot of transparent effects. Turner was a crack watercolorist and he brought some of that transparent technology to his oils.

Turner was an eccentric and never married. He did have several long term relationships. His father lived with him for thirty years and upon his fathers death he descended into depression.
Below is an example of one of his many watercolors. Surprisingly for a painter of such abstract pictures where the subject is so obscured, Turner was an excellent draftsman and drew architecture exceedingly well. In fact he taught perspective and architectural drawing for the Academy.
Turner is one of the most important and early British watercolorists. His influence on that medium was enormous and watercolor is probably more important in English painting than anywhere else. I could do a series of posts on English watercolourists there were so many excellent practitioners.

Below: The Welsh bridge at Shrewsbury. I wonder if that still exists, what a location. if any of you English readers know, will you tell me? I have had a lot of information provided to this blog by English painters, and it is in deference to them that I have used the English spelling watercolourists in the preceding paragraph.


Kevin Menck said...

Thanks for the 100 Paintings posts. I have been following and have enjoyed the paintings and the history. It has been a lot of fun so far.

JonInFrance said...

Nice of you to nod in the direction of we Brits! Bruce Macevoy has a list of lovely résumés of major watercolor painters (life + work) on his fabulous Handprint site (not blog). There's some exhibition on now at the tate - slideshow:

bvpainter said...

I do not know if the bridge still exists, but I rather doubt it. I believe that this is a fairly early watercolour by Turner.

You can visit the Print and Drawings Room at Tate Britain, by appointment where you can view anything that you want to see. I took a small group there last year and we had an introduction to Turner talk. We were shown watercolours from his very earliest efforts as a young boy up to his fantastic Venice and Swiss series, as well as some of his notebooks. It was a fantastic experience, seeing these works close at hand, under ideal conditions. If you are ever in London it is something worth doing.

billspaintingmn said...

Stape! I have a tendency to start out with a 'wash' approach with my painting.
I'm learning to to mix and paint with thicker/opaque oils.
Is there a ballence of these two or should I drop the 'wash' approach?
(I personally like the look/effect)

Bill said...

Current bridge is 1795, so probably this is the previous bridge - maybe done to record it for history?

Tim said...

There is one elephant, its very faint, just above the guy in the center (well a bit off center,to the left actually)

jeff said...

If one finds oneself in Edinburgh, Scotland in February they have the largest collection of Turner watercolors after the Tate. They only bring it out once a year so they are in excellent condition. The paintings where left to the city of Edinburgh by Turner himself. It was his favorite city outside of London.

Not to mention while in the National Gallery you can visit the Sargent's, and Raeburn's.

I spent 8 years there and every year the dim of the Scottish winter was broken by a month of Turner's. I went almost everyday every February of every year I lived there.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

I wish I was in England to see that show.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Too bad, I wanted to paint it.I could go to Arizona and paint the London Bridge.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You need to be careful with thinning paint like that. It needs to have a certain level of oil and pigment to form a skin when it dries. You can paint either transparently or opaquely but I suggest you learn to paint opaquely and then learn to work transparently.

Stapleton Kearns said...

1795 = the new bridge. They have so much history there.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Oh I thought that was a barrage balloon.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I need to travel to England, all I do is work, work, work!

bvpainter said...

You'll be very welcome !

Unknown said...

That's the old Welsh Bridge, knocked down in the 1790s and replaced with the new Welsh bridge, completed in 1795. So very early Turner painting - he would have been in his mid-teens probably; he already 20 by the time the new one was completed.