Joseph Mallord William Turner - the sun is God!

Turner is arguably the greatest English painter ever to have lived. The immensely broad output of his work encompassed both the age of sail, which he was born into, and the age of steam, which brought about major changes he lived through. He was also an artist who took seriously the President of the Royal Academy, Joshua Reynolds' call to establish an English School on the model of the European Old Masters, while simultaneously affirming modernity and pioneering innovation within his works. A painter, who studied deeply the effects of light, may well have remarked in the weeks before his death, that ‘the sun is God’.


  • This class will be delivered online via the online platform Zoom.
  • This course requires students to have an email, a reliable internet connection, and access to a tablet, smartphone or computer.


  • Peter Ackroyd, Turner (Vintage Books, 2006).
  • David Blaney Brown, Turner’s Watercolours (Tate Publishing, 2008).
  • Michael Robinson, Turner: His Life and Works in 500 Images (Annes Publishing, 2013).
  • Joshua Reynolds, Discourses on Art (Yale University Press, 1997).
  • John Ruskin, Modern Painters, edited and abridged by David Barrie (Welbeck Publishing Group, 1989).
  • Joyce H. Townsend, Turner’s Painting Techniques (Tate Publishing, fourth edition, 2005).
  • Eric Shanes, Turner’s Watercolour Explorations, 1810 to 1842 (Tate Publishing, 1997).
  • Ian Warrell, Turner and Venice (Tate Publishing, 2003).
  • Ian Warrell, Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude (National Gallery Company, 2012).
  • Ian Warrell, Turner’s Sketchbooks (Harry N. Abrams, 2015).


  • Turner’s youth and early career: Born in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, Turner was the son of a barber and wig maker. Some of Turner’s earliest artistic connections came via his father’s clients. When Turner was in his early twenties, his mother was admitted to a mental asylum. We will look at how Turner’s childhood shaped him as a person.
  • Turner and the Royal Academy: At age 14, Turner was admitted to the Royal Academy. We will examine how Turner’s aims as an artist were formed within the context of the art education of the time. From 1780 onwards, the Royal Academy would share the building it was housed in, Somerset House, with the Royal Society; who took up residence in the North Wing. We will see how this resulted in an interaction between the visual arts and the sciences, influencing Turner’s observation of the natural world, his analysis of the chemistry of his pigments and the nature of both light and magnetism.
  • Turner and travel: From the mid-1790s, Turner settled on the routine he maintained for much of his life, touring in the summer and working in the studio in the winter months. Turner travelled widely throughout his native Britain and to Europe – in France, Switzerland and Italy. We will seek to understand how these many years of relentless work defined him as a landscape painter.
  • Turner and Claude: We will seek to gain an appreciation for the influence the seventeenth century French painter, Claude Lorrain, had upon Turner. We will also examine the full eclectic range of artistic sources Turner drew inspiration from.
  • From the Age of Sail to the Age of Steam: We will examine how changes in technology and industry and their effect upon the landscape influenced Turner’s work.

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Gain an understanding of how Turner’s artistic evolution and output was impacted by the transformations in Britain and Europe’s social, economic and political life in the late eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth century.
  2. Gain an understanding of the technical aspects of Turner’s work, within a variety of media including drawing, watercolour and oil painting.
  3. Be able to relate Turner’s artistic output to the art of the European Old Masters and contemporary interpretations of their techniques, the emergence of new industrial pigments and innovations in science.
  4. Compare and contrast Turner’s work with that of his famous and less well known contemporaries.
  5. Gain an understanding of how to visually analyse works of art.
$49 Limited

<p>Turner is arguably the greatest English painter ever to have lived. The immensely broad output of his work encompassed both the age of sail, which he was born into, and the age of steam, which

01 May

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