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J.M.W. Turner: Incendiary change

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  1. Introduction
  2. Turner and his two sections of life
  3. The traditional compositional aspects
  4. The importance of experience
  5. Turner's liberty of imagination
  6. Turner's detailed inclusion of the crowd
  7. Tension between unruly imagination and rigid establishment
  8. Conclusion
  9. Bibliography

The late eighteenth century through the first half of the nineteenth century witnessed vast transformations in Europe, as the notions of a voice for every citizen and the power of the common people became powerful stimuli for change. Although the move away from unchecked monarchical power was most obvious in France with its several revolutions, the undercurrent of upheaval was felt throughout Europe, including in England. Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in 1775 and died in 1851, his life spanning this era of ideological change. Although he was steeped in the academic tradition and a member of England?s Royal Academy from his early teen years, Turners works show an ambivalence and tension between his admiration and imitation of the old masters and his desires to break new ground and create a unique style all his own.

[...] ?Turner usually allowed himself considerable freedom to change the particulars of a scene if in doing so he heightened the pictorial and poetic expression of his work.?[10] The painting most likely does not capture the exact reality of the fire's appearance. For instance, the orange smoke that emanates from the flames in all likelihood was more of a gray or black smoke. But the use of that bright orange expands the reach of the flames to awe-inspiring heights; the fire seems to have tentacles of smoke and a life of its own; it reaches out for more to consume. [...]

[...] sea, and mist.?[2] Kenneth Clark writes that after Turner's visit to Italy in 1819, does not attempt sham Claudes and Poussins, and his compositions give up all pretence of classical construction.?[3] Jack Lindsay describes the ?main effect of the two Italian visits? as most apparent in the water-colors of the period, in which, excitingly watch him in the demiurgic act of creating a cosmos of unified light-color-form out of the most simple possible materials, in a revolutionary leap of sensibility. [...]

[...] New Haven: Yale University Press Rodner, William. J.M.W. Turner: Romantic Painter of the Industrial Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press Solender, Katherine. Dreadful fire! Burning of the Houses of Parliament. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art Wendorf, Richard. After Sir Joshua: essays on British art and cultural history. New Haven: Yale University Press Venning, Barry. Turner. London: Phaidon Press Limited See figure 1. Ronald Paulson, Literary Landscape: Turner [...]

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