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J.M.W. Turner and the Art of the Sublime

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, March 30, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0759
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This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Rain, Steam and Speed–The Great Western Railway by J.M.W. Turner, 1844

British artist J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851) is known for innovative landscape paintings that captured nature’s power and drama. His radical techniques allowed him to create unprecedented imagery that still appears modern today. Tim Barringer, a professor of art history at Yale University, places a selection of Turner’s works in historical context.

He reveals how Turner’s art reflected his belief in “the sublime,” an artistic theory that contrasted the power of nature with the fragile condition of mankind, and how the artist understood the drastic transformations caused by the Industrial Revolution. On the crucial question of whether industrialization was for the better, Turner remained ambivalent. In Rain, Steam and Speed (1844), he painted a locomotive of the Great Western Railway hurtling across a viaduct, the steam engine belching smoke and flames. It can now be seen as a powerful emblem of the moment at which mankind’s activities permanently affected, and indeed damaged, the planet on which we live. Few artists were as astutely aware of this most sublime and ultimately catastrophic of historical processes as Turner.

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