Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Sunrise with Sea Monsters' circa 1845

Joseph Mallord William Turner
Sunrise with Sea Monsters circa 1845
Oil on canvas
support: 914 x 1219 mm frame: 1066 x 1373 x 75 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

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On display until 9 April 2012

The second half of Turner’s career saw the emergence of the distinctive style of painting for which he is now best remembered. This ‘late style’ is characterised by expressive use of colour, by indistinct, unresolved forms, and above all by the depiction of light, which he used to create powerfully evocative landscapes and seascapes. The experimental nature of his techniques and the originality of his vision have since led to him being hailed as a prophet of modern painting.

As celebrated as these ‘Turnerian’ qualities are now, during the artist’s lifetime his late oil paintings were frequently criticised and ridiculed. Described by one contemporary as ‘pictures of nothing and very like’, they were often derided for their loose, unfinished appearance and chromatic intensity. Undeterred by public opinion, Turner followed his own path, exhibiting unique and challenging work until the year before his death. He can therefore be seen to fit the role of the Romantic artist, a misunderstood genius heroically following his own impulses, rather than the expectations of society.

This display has been devised by curator Nicola Moorby.