Friday, August 5, 2011

The British Word continued...

J.M.W. Turner, The Slave Ship (1840)

J.M.W. Turner, a contemporary of Wordsworth, greatly drew from Romantic poetry in his artwork. Turner particularly appreciated the manner in which words captured atmosphere, such as in Scottish poet James Thomsons’s “The Seasons.” Turner is said to have depicted “the sunrise…such as he imagined was in the poet’s eye” (Timbs, 365). Not only did he use Romantics’ poetry but he also used his own poetry to accompany his paintings. His writing was something personally significant that helped him to refine his vision and emotions on nature and the sublime (Nadaner). Words, however, by no means took precedent over his images; rather, much like the British art today, each complemented and enriched the other. In 1812, Turner addressed the Royal Academy in a lecture: “Painting and poetry flow from the same fount mutually by vision, …[and] reciprocally…heighten each other’s beauties like…mirrors” (Nadaner, 32). Turner’s paintings and poetry work together to grasp and convey that which cannot be seen but that is inexplicably felt in a setting’s atmosphere.

In expressing his subliminal emotions and visions, Turner placed value on individual experience, as Wordsworth and other Romantic poets did. During this period, the emphasis on the individual in turn inspired a concern for political and social causes. Turner extended his work from personal reflections to “sublime or awesome aspects of contemporary life” in general, such as in his work on the terrifying travels of slave ships (Barker). Thus the early nineteenth century saw trends that resemble today’s. Both periods have artists intertwine images with words to express emotion to its fullest, to connect to one’s inner self. Yet these artists also reach out of themselves to address universal concerns, particularly in regard to social oppression.

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