Joseph Mallord William Turner is his name. 19th century art pioneer, started out as a Romantic landscape painting but ended up radically changing Art. Forever. What happened? Why did it happen?
” … they took me in their grasp and for a moment i felt ‘human’. For a moment I felt like drowning, grasping for air in this immense see of color”.
Snowstorm 1842, Oil on Canvas, William Turner
Although he was among the artists we know classify as Romantics, it’s obvious that his art was very similar to what would be known as Impressionism. During his early career Turner became a respected landscape painter. He painted these very picturesque images of rural landscapes. But then all of a sudden he paints these. “Unintelligible Chaos of Color” is what the critics called it. But it’s so much more than that! It’s the expression of motion and light, the “sublime” feeling of a man meeting nature, feeling small and powerless against it, but feeling good at the same time.
“They called him; “the painter of light”, “the great pyrotechnist”
It are these paintings/ feelings that words lack to describe, watching these subliminal natural forces from a safe distance. It’s the ability of imagining these things that are superhuman, it’s about this powerless feeling of men versus nature. William Turner was truly fascinated by light and speed (which is so obvious in the paining below). He paints a train rushing towards us, like it’s going up in flames. In front of it there’s a hare running for it’s life, which I believe symbolizes speed. But there’s more; when we look at the bottom left we can see an old bridge and a little rowing boat which expresses authentic life as it was before they invented the train. But when we look at the painting above it’s even more remarkable what subliminal power nature can achieve, the little boat in the middle seems have been swallowed by nature’s brute forces, “the see took him”.
If I first saw his “later” paintings they simple amazed me, I got thrown over, they took me in their grasp and for a moment i felt ‘human’. For a moment I felt like drowning, grasping for air in this see of color. But then it became clear to me, that this struggle is what makes me feel alive, it makes me ‘human’. How does it make you feel; do you feel stronger? Smaller? Do you feel nothing at all? Do you experience beauty or rather sublimity? (Feel free to let me now and make my day).
Rain, steam & speed – The Great western Railway, 1844, Oil on Canvas, William Turner