Turner Online

Top: Turner, Snowstorm. Hannibal and His Army Crossing the Alps (1812) Oil on canvas. Tate Gallery, London

So many of Turner’s canvases are eye-shaped and his viewpoint so clearly Romantic and mystical that I cannot understand how so few people recognize that these images are taking place inside Turner’s mind behind his eyes. Simon Schama the historian did mention this in his book The Power of Art but it seems to be a rare understanding among art historians. The artist, of course, did nothing to help explain his images. In fact, as Ian Warrell has written, “Turner …appears to have gone out of his way to be cryptic and to confound straightforward interpretations of his art.”1  Nevertheless there is one constant, as there is in almost all major art, the location of the art is inside the artist’s mind, however much it may look like the Atlantic Ocean or the Alps.

Turner also seems to have had noticeably darker skin around his eyes (lower image), a unique feature that he often referred to as in the top image. It is titled Snow Storm. Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps when it really is Turner as Hannibal and his army attempting against superhuman-odds to create the very painting we are looking at. Hannibal, the snowstorm, the darkened sky are all metaphors for the elements in Turner’s own mind as seen inside it.

Turner has long been absent from the list of artists on EPPH. I now plan to try and compensate for that lack by explaining more of his images in the near future. Stay tuned for more on Turner.

1. Ian Warrell, “J.M.W. Turner and the Pursuit of Fame” in J.M.W. Turner (London: Tate) 2007

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