This book accompanied The EY Exhibition: Late Turner – Painting Set Free at Tate Britain (10 September 2014 – 25 January 2015). It is an intriguing piece of Turner scholarship with dedicated sections on his technique, and a study of how age may have effected his ways of seeing and painting.
The last sixteen years of Turner’s life, from 1835 when he turned sixty, saw an extraordinary creative flowering when he produced some of his most dazzling, audacious and innovative works. His mastery of watercolour reached a spectacular peak while his oil paintings scaled new heights of imagination, virtuoso technique and understanding of light and colour.
For many admirers today, his reputation rests on this consummate achievement. At the time, however, the older Turner was a controversial and divisive figure, mocked, derided and misunderstood. Critics baffled by his radical approach believed he had wilfully cut himself off from the contemporary art world while even admirers like John Ruskin wondered if he was losing his faculties. More recently, a focus on abstract tendencies, especially in Turner’s surviving body of unfinished work has created a modernist critique that obscures the artist’s original intentions.
This beautifully illustrated book accompanied the first large scale exhibition to be devoted to Turner’s late work. Written by leading Turner scholars and curators and drawing on new research it discusses a wide spectrum of the artist’s subject matter, production, life and legacy: exhibition paintings, watercolours, unfinished sketches and experiments and sketchbooks in which his ideas first took shape. Challenging Victorian prejudices and stereotypes of ageing and aesthetics that confronted Turner himself, reductive later interpretation of his work and pervasive notions of ‘late style’, the authors bring ‘Late Turner’ back to life as a painter completely engaged in the culture and society of his time and as committed as he had ever been to communicating his art and ideas.
Edited by David Blayney Brown (Curator of British Art, 1790-1850 at Tate Britain), Amy Concannon (Assistant Curator 1790-1850, Tate Britain) and Sam Smiles (Professor of Art History and Visual Culture, Exeter University).
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