Blog Post 1: Turner as a modern artist

February 7th, 2011

Jackie Weber    Blog post #1                  Senior Seminar 391W    Professor Zino

J.M.W Turner became one of the most prominent artists of the new Romantics movement; his works were sometimes seen as controversial due to his brush strokes and the ideals he was trying to portray on his canvas.  He modernized his works through his love for painting landscape art, opposed to the historical artwork of his time.  He wanted to show his love for humankind by incorporating them into his images of destruction – but at the same time he wanted to show how as people, we are completely vulnerable to the “sublime” and to mother nature.  Turner used a new way of thinking to form his paintings; he wanted his paintings to show how the eye interprets vision.  This created a huge turn in the history of visual culture.  Turner was coming from a culture that used a very innovative, yet very straight forward way of viewing art work.  The Camera Obscura was a way people could view art work, or create their own; the box itself created the images upside down, but the colors and the lighting was the same.  This was one of the foundations for the creations of the camera.  Turner took these straight forward images and turned them on their head.  For starters, his paintings are abstract.  They are hazy and sometimes hard to really comprehend at first since there is a lot going on and he uses very loose brushstrokes.  But, Turner knew that in order to keep the observer interested, you would have to keep the observer guessing, so one would need to be innovative and creative.  Jonathon Crary says in his essay, Vision and Visionality, “This collapse of the camera obscura as a model for the status of an observer was part of a much larger process of modernization, even as the camera obscura itself was an element of an earlier modernity” (42).  The camera obscura was highly new and bold thinking for its time, but it only makes sense that as the world moves along and new generations take over, that our views and our opinions differ as well.  But as much of a modern artist one can consider Turner, couldn’t it be said that any new artist that breaks through the “typical” or the “usual” be considered a modern artist/poet/writer?  As said in chapter three of the Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture Reader, there has always been some type of visual stimulus that would marry its ability to represent their ideals.  As the world grows and the technology becomes more advanced, we have new ways to view things.  Crary believes that in order to continue on with the fascination of the observer, one must continue moving forward.  If the only way we had to view images was through the camera obscura, I’m sure no one would use it; it would become a dying form.  Turner took those facts and decided to create what he thought the world looks like- which to some wasn’t’ the same, but it worked for him.  Film might be one of the most innovative creations, and is something that may always be used; “Film seems especially well integrated into not only teaching but professional scholarship” (chapter 3).

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One Response to “Blog Post 1: Turner as a modern artist”

  1. Dominique on February 8, 2011 7:54 pm

    Hi Jackie, This is a thorough first post! I’d like to focus on one moment near the middle of your response when you quote Crary (by the way, one small bit of proofreading: the book in which Crary’s essay appears is Vision and VisUALity and his specific essay is entitled “Modernizing Vision”):

    “Jonathon Crary says in his essay, Vision and Visionality, “This collapse of the camera obscura as a model for the status of an observer was part of a much larger process of modernization, even as the camera obscura itself was an element of an earlier modernity” (42). The camera obscura was highly new and bold thinking for its time, but it only makes sense that as the world moves along and new generations take over, that our views and our opinions differ as well. But as much of a modern artist one can consider Turner, couldn’t it be said that any new artist that breaks through the “typical” or the “usual” be considered a modern artist/poet/writer?”

    Look back at the PowerPoint I posted from today’s class on the “class notes” page and read the slides that define “modernity.” Considering the way critics and historians use the term (and we’re part of that group of critics and historians this semester), “modern” doesn’t just mean “new” does it? When Crary says that the camera obscura no longer serves as an accurate model for the visual experience of the “modern” observer in the middle of the 19th century, what does he mean? (See Crary’s distinction between monocular and binocular vision.) When we gather again on Wednesday, I’d love to hear you speak up about how your thinking about this has evolved!

    (3/4)

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