I mentioned before about the Turner exhibition in Canberra. Last time I posted about his watercolour paintings. This time I would like to show you a few of his oil paintings. His oils are very popular. Apparently his work, The fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth before being broken up 1838, was voted the most popular painting in the National Gallery in London. (It was not in the Canberra exhibition.)
The camera battery was about to expire, so I didn’t take many photos of the oil paintings.
Turner was was a mature artist when he first visited Italy in 1819, after the Napoleonic Wars. The quality of light was an inspiration to him. (I wonder what the impact would have been if he had been younger and less experienced.) The light in this painting of Venice is amazing.
The sea fascinated him as well. In his later years he spent much of his time at Margate, where he studied the interplay of light, atmosphere and waves in many different conditions. In this next painting you can see the crashing waves, the lighthouse and the town caught in a yellow glow. Above it all is the maelstrom of the clouds.
Sun setting over a lake. What an ordinary title for such an extraordinary painting. This next one needed time for things to reveal themselves. Out of the mists the mountains and ridges emerge. Is the shore there? Maybe that is a boat. The complexity of the painting is staggering — and the beauty is overwhelming!
This last painting to show you was very moving. It is A disaster at sea, c. 1835? Its alternative title is The wrecked female convict ship, the Amphitrite: women and children abandoned in a gale. That tells you much of the story, but not all of it. The Amphitrite was transporting British female convicts and their children to Australia when it was wrecked off the French coast. The ship’s captain refused French help to save the women, because he had orders to only land them in New South Wales.
This painting needed a place in this blog for a few reasons. Firstly it is a powerful painting of such a needless tragedy. Secondly, I like the idea of these women and children finally arriving. To reach NSW, even as a painting, completes a circle for me. Thirdly, it has resonances with the refugees who are coming here by boat today — drownings at sea, orders that are cruel and inhumane, an acceptance that some lives are worth more than others.