With a homemade watercolor set—a hollowed-out almanac with small paint cakes glued inside—and little drawing books rolled up into his pockets, J.M.W. Turner set out on painting-voyages which became the rough material for his epic series Picturesque Views in England and Wales. This work, executed from 1824 to the mid-1830’s, by “Overturner”—a nickname given to Turner by a friend in honor of his persistent mishaps on country roads and his aptness to lose his sketchbooks—comprised one hundred watercolors inspired by Turner’s travels and subsequently made into prints with the publisher Charles Heath (Meslay 66-7).
MIR Gallery, an online division of MIR Appraisal Services, is proud to showcase two prints from Picturesque Views in England and Wales: Kilgarren Castle, Pembroke, South Wales 1829, and Coventry, Warwickshire, 1833. (MIR Gallery also boasts a third Turner print, which we are currently researching.)
J.M.W. Turner Kilgarren Castle, Pembroke, South Wales
J.M.W. Turner Coventry, Warwickshire
Picturesque Views in England and Wales was also published as a book with copper engravings in two volumes from 1827-1838. It was from this series that John Ruskin, critic, teacher and painter, first witnessed a Turner print in his thirteenth year of life; he entreated his parents to visit the very landscapes recorded in Turner’s artistic voyage, in this way perhaps doubling the “backwards tourism” identified in Simon Schama’s lecture Turner and the Romance of Britain: “Some of the most sublime of his [Turner’s] images are mystical and magical reveries on the essence of Britishness-- exercises in ‘backwards tourism’—through time as well as place” (Meslay 66-8, Schama, National Gallery of Art, http://www.nga.gov).
Turner’s extensive painting-tours of England and Wales coincided with the popularized, romantic notion of tourism as a route to embodying a national identity; in “Turner and the Representation of England” Elizabeth Helsinger links visual “touristic travel” through the mere witnessing of the prints in Picturesque Views as “a means of vicariously possessing England” (Mitchell 105). Helsinger quotes William Gilpin, the “pioneer picturesque tourist”, who held that beautiful landscapes were “national aesthetic property”—“A ruined abbey is a deposit, of which [the owner] is only the guardian, for the amusement and admiration of posterity” (Mitchell 106).
Yet Turner’s rather impressionistic meditations on landscape were not the works of universal, faithful, physical representations; rather, Turner’s “poetic drag of memory” broke form with light itself (http://www.nga.gov). Indeed, an anonymous critic in L’Artiste spoke to this highly personal vision, and the “mysterious relationship” Turner establishes “between the most widely differing climates”; the critic articulates,
“Give Turner Wales, England, the Loire, the Pyrenees, the Alps, give him the Colosseum or the Doge’s Palace, and he will imbue them all with a grandeur and a grace… He refuses to acknowledge the existence of those impenetrable mists that wrap themselves around Edinburgh’s old city. Nor can you expect him to be satisfied with that glaring light which throws the Naples skyline into such sharp relief. No, he takes nature as he finds it… and he embroiders and embellishes it… expands it…” (Meslay 62).
Debussy, who called Turner the “finest creator of mystery in art” approached nature as his subject matter with a similar sense of introspection: “Like the British painter J. M. W. Turner, who stared at the sea for hours and then went inside to paint, Debussy worked from memory” (http://www.cso.org). Debussy and Turner relegated form and reality to the periphery; Debussy posited, “We are not concerned with the form of the nocturne, but everything that this word includes in the way of diversified impression and special lights." Therefore, Turner’s “poetic memory” informed his highly personalized works, and we witness a very particular England and Wales in Picturesque Views—not only the Great Britain of the early 19th century, but also the vision of a startlingly modern and progressive individual artist with an “utterly unprecedented view about what it meant to paint light itself” (Schama http://www.nga.gov).
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Phone: (312) 814-8510
MIR Gallery, an online division of MIR Appraisal Services, Inc., is currently exhibiting three original J.M.W. Turner prints. To view the prints, please do email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (312) 814-8510.
Mitchell, W.J., Ed. Landscape and Power. Helsinger, Elizabeth. ”Turner and the Representation of England.” Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Meslay, Olivier. Turner: Life and Landscape. Henry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005.
Schama, Simon, Professor, Department of Art History and Archeology, Columbia College. [Lecture] Turner and the Romance of Britain.: http://www.nga.gov