Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was an artist ahead of his time. By a long way. Looking at his paintings one is tempted to say that he was an impressionist yet his work predated the impressionists. Turner took his own path and shocked the established artists with his extraordinary use of colour.
Turner's use of colour Is both expressive and romantic, but not in the classical sense. He used colour in a way that would leave the viewer enthralled, moved and even shocked. Never indifferent. No doubt Turner did inspire impressionist painters who noted that Turner painted atmosphere and not simply objects. The air became the subject and this was a trait followed by many impressionist painters.
Take the above painting, The Slave Ship, for an example. The painting depicts a true event where slaves are thrown overboard a ship. Nature seems to be appalled by the deed. The red sky, tumult in the sea and the approaching typhoon all add up to a dramatic scene. The ship and the people are very small compared to the environment. Clearly Turner felt that mankind's actions were an affront to nature.
Look out for the new movie Mr Turner launching this month. This should be a fascinating film showing us the life of artists in the 19th century.
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