A substantial tome, packed with scholarly exegesis - The Spectator
It was J.M.W. Turner's strategy - uniquely within the history of European landscape painting - to take on all comers, both past and present, whom he considered as worthy rivals to his own fame. Throughout his career he modelled some of his most ambitious pictures on the works of other painters, to demonstrate both his understanding of great art and his ability to equal - indeed to surpass - the masters of the past. Turner never tired of matching his talents against the forerunners and contemporaries he most admired, even as he devoted more and more of his energy to devising his own, defiantly innovative forms of modern pictorial imagery. In the process he fashioned a type of art that not only strove to be true to the appearances of nature, but that was also self-consciously about the making of art itself.
Astonishingly, although Turner's habit of assimilating and competing with the achievements of so many different painters holds one of the major keys to a full understanding of his art, this beautifully illustrated catalogue will be the first publication to explore the issue thoroughly. It accompanies a major touring exhibition showing Turner in the company of more than twenty Old Masters - including Claude, Canaletto, Gainsborough, Ruisdael, Titian, Poussin, Watteau, Veronese, Rubens and Rembrandt - as well as several of Turner's contemporaries, among them John Constable and R.P. Bonington. Turner and the Masters repositions Turner in the pantheon of those he regarded as the greatest geniuses of all time, revealing his debts and rivalries in an exciting, revelatory, and sometimes surprising way.
David Solkin is Professor of the Social History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and is one of the world's leading authorities on eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British painting.
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