Accompanying Tate Britain’s landmark exhibition of the art of J.M.W. Turner, this beautiful hardback catalogue presents Turner as a pioneer painter of contemporary life, finding new ways to picture the momentous events and dizzying changes of modernisation.
The exhibition book highlights Turner’s contemporary imagery, the most exceptional and distinctive aspect of his work throughout his career. Rather than making any claims for Turner’s proto-modernist credentials, it explores what constituted modernity, and what it meant to be a modern artist in his lifetime.
Turner’s career spanned revolution and the Napoleonic War, Empire, the explosion of finance capitalism, the transition from sail to steam and from manpower to mechanisation, political reform and scientific and cultural advances that transformed society and shaped the modern world. While historians have long recognised that the industrial and political revolutions of the late eighteenth century created massive change and modernisation, these were often ignored by artists as they did not fit into established categories of pictorial representation. This exhibition shows how Turner updated the language of art and transformed his style and practice to produce revelatory, definitive interpretations of modern subjects.
David Blayney Brown is Senior Curator, Tate Britain.
Amy Concannon is Curator, Tate Britain.
Sam Smiles is Emeritus Professor of Art History, University of Plymouth, and Programme Director, Art History and Visual Culture, University of Exeter.
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