Sunday, 28 April 2013

"The Genius of Turner: Painting the Industrial Revolution" - a great British documentary

J.M.W. Turner: Bell Rock Lighthouse (1819)
Scottish National Gallery

Great documentaries are the lifeblood of quality television. Although one often has the feeling that the really fine documentaries were done already years ago, it is always nice to be surprised by a new high quality production. 

"The Genius of Turner: Painting the Industrial Revolution", a documentary exploring the influence of the industrial revolution on the life and work of J.M.W. Turner, shown on BBC Two last Friday, was without doubt one of these pleasant surprises. 

I have myself preferred Constable's depictions of British rural scenery, but this documentary, which looked at Turner in a new light, has given me a good reason to reconsider. The visually stunning Fresh One Productions film, directed by Clare Beavan, uses nine of Turner's key paintings as a starting point to show his close involvement with machines, science, technology and industry. The expert commentaries add a lot of interesting information about this less known side of the great painter's production. 

The final words of the documentary are a good summary: 

"This then is J.M.W. Turner, Britain's great romantic landscape painter, who delivered to us a visionary story of the industrial revolution, and at the same time revealed the wonders of science and invention, who used paint to herald a new world." 

J.M.W. Turner: Rain, steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway (1844).
The National Gallery, London

J.M.W. Turner: Dudley (1832)
Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool

J.M.W. Turner
Self portrait

Hopefully this documentary will soon be available on DVD/Blu ray!

There is more on Turner to look forward to: 

Mike Leigh is to direct a film focusing on the life of famed English painter JMW (Joseph Mallord William) Turner.
Timothy Spall has been cast in the lead role of the landscape watercolour artist, who died in 1851 aged 76.
Although considered an eccentric during his lifetime, Turner is now regarded as one of the Britain's greatest painters.
Spall has worked with Leigh on a number of films, including Life is Sweet, All or Nothing and Topsy-Turvy, his 1999 film about Gilbert and Sullivan.
"Turner as a character is compelling," said Leigh. "I want to explore the man, his working life, his relationships and how he lived.
"But what fascinates me most is the drama that lies in the tension between this driven eccentric and the epic, timeless world he evoked in his masterpieces."

1 comment:

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