J.M.W Turner began painting in the late 1700s around the time world was being Revolutionized through combat, industry & social reforms. Throughout his life, he travelled across the British Isles portraying the immense industrial change with the old world as a backdrop.
During his time active, other artists would very much avoid this changing landscape, both literally and figuratively. A lot would look to depict the beauty of the country, so people could escape to it with their minds, but Turner took another approach. Visualizing the change that was happening, showing how the beauty of the land was changing but also raising the question, ‘isn’t this beautiful too?‘
Outside of the Industrial Revolution, Turner showed the harsh reality of warfare. His works such as ‘The Field of Waterloo’ & ‘The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the Victory,’ provide an unbiased look on the conflicts happening, showing mass casualties on both sides, without a ‘true hero’ in the frame. The later piece mentioned depicts Nelson hunched over after being shot by a French soldier, leaving a strong message of ‘no hero is safe from war.’
Later in his life, Turner began to explore social reforms and questioning the morals of man. The most striking piece in the collection is ‘The Slave Ship.’ (The real piece isn’t at the Tate Britain as it is too old to travel and sits in Boston, MA.) Inspired by Thomas Clarkson, Turner paints the Zong Massacre, where the ship captain had ordered 133 slaves to be thrown overboard to collect insurance payments.
This exhibition brings together all the majority of J.M.W Turner’s most striking works into eight rooms, for you to travel around the world Turner inhabited 200 years ago.
Turner’s Modern World begins on the 28th October 2020 and ends on the 7th March 2021 at Tate Britain.
Words: Kian Thompson | Subbing: Karolina Pracht