London launches exhibition to explore Turner’s fascination with sea

LONDON, Nov. 21 — A British painter quite aware of the
island nation’s marine tradition, Joseph Mallord William Turner
showed his life-long obsession with the sea by devoting half of his
works to this subject.

An exhibition starting from Friday until April 21 next year at
the National Maritime Museum will showcase with 120 pieces how
Turner looked at the sea in different ways.

“The first major exhibition to engage with Turner’s obsession
with the sea,” said Christine Riding, curator of the exhibition.
“Over his long career which spans 50 years, over half of Turner’s
prolific artworks were seascape paintings. So he is a sea painter,
as well as one of the greatest in the art history.”

When Turner entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1789, marine
paintings had a long tradition, including works by celebrated
artists from the Netherlands and France.

“He is British, part of an island nation where the sea is
tremendously important,” Riding told Xinhua in an interview. “And
Turner was a great traveller, but he couldn’t travel out of Britain
without going out into the sea.”

The exhibition showed Turner’s first oil painting ever
exhibited, “Fishermen at Sea.” It depicted the scene of a fishing
boat in the choppy sea under moonlight. The colours were
centralized around the moon to the fishing boats, to create an
effect of light shining heavily around the boats. It showed the
young artist’s command of a rich Continental traditional of marine

“The Battle of Trafalgar,” fought off the southwestern coast of
Spain on Oct. 21, 1805, was an important event during the lifetime
of Turner, in which the British navy achieved a decisive victory
against Napoleonic France.

Turner responded to the battle with his largest and most
theatrical marine painting. Completed 19 years after the event, it
combines incidents from different times during the action. The
falling of mast on the battleship Victory implied death of
Britain’s naval hero, vice-admiral Nelson, while on the
debris-strewn sea, British sailors attempted to save friends and
enemies alike from drowning.

Paintings from other artists were hung alongside Turner’s works
so as to form comparison. “Comparing Turner to his contemporaries
is also important to underline that he is not the only artist
responding to the sea,” Riding said.

Turner constantly searched for new ways to paint the sea. For
instance, in the 1820s Turner experimented with a brighter, more
colourful style in response to the rising popularity of a new
generation of ambitious artists with his “Now for the
Painter”-Passengers Going on Board.

Influences from his fellow painters were also obvious in
Turner’s works, such as “Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbor’s
Mouth” in 1942. “This modern, abstract painting is completely
different from what people expect from marine artists at that
time,” Riding said.

“But if you look at the palette of the painting, Turner was
using very cool tones, dark browns, gray, blue, white. These
colours you can see in Dutch 17 century art,” Riding said.

The exhibition also showed some of Turner’s rarely-seen
unfinished seascape works, like “Shipping at the Mouth of the
Thames,” revealing his method of constructing an image.

With these works, Turner left a legacy. “He offered a myriad of
possibilities with the sea as the subject, for all future artists,
so that they can find their own Turner, and find their own way of
imagining the sea.” Enditem[db:内容2]

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