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JMW Turner - HOA00087M

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Richard Johns
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

This module centres on a critical examination of the practice, reception and continuing resonance of JMW Turner, one of the most prolific, mobile and celebrated artists of the nineteenth century.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2021-22

Module aims

Seminars will examine the extraordinary range of Turner’s enterprise, from his earliest exhibited work of the 1790s to the provocative, indistinct canvases and watercolours he produced towards the end of his life. With a focus on landscape and coastal views, our enquiries will encompass Turner’s sustained interest in the natural world, classical mythology, the art and culture of past societies, and experimental science. Through reading, seminar discussion and site visits, we will examine the artist’s work in the light of global war and imperial competition, accelerating industrialization, a burgeoning exhibition culture, and new technologies of travel.

As well as placing the artist’s work in its own time, the module will explore Turner’s complex posthumous identity, and the voluminous literature that surrounds it—from the first biographies published after his death in 1851 and the early interventions of John Ruskin, to Mike Leigh’s modern biopic Mr. Turner (2014). We will also consider the agency of the Turner Bequest, Tate and the National Gallery in the reinvention of Turner as a singularly prominent British artist.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module students should have acquired:

  •  A close familiarity with the artistic practice of JMW Turner (1775–1851)
  • An understanding of the materials and techniques used by the artist
  • An appreciation of the broader art-historical, institutional and political context in which Turner’s work found meaning.
  • An appreciation of modern art-historical, curatorial and critical debates surrounding Turner’s work
  • Advanced skills in visual analysis
  • High-level reading skills, to critically evaluate and engage with a range of scholarly approaches
  • An ability to develop a sophisticated written argument, using images effectively
  • Persuasive presentation skills and the ability to explain complex ideas to an informed audience
  • Familiarity with a range of archival, literary, visual and other forms of source material, including collection-based resources


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback on summative assessment within 20 working days.

Indicative reading

  • David Blaney Brown (ed.), JMW Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, 2012
  • Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of JMW Turner, 2 vols, 1984 (revised ed.)
  • Leo Costello, JMW Turner and the Subject of History, 2012
  • Gillian Forrester, Turner’s ‘Drawing Book’: The Liber Studiorum, 1996
  • Christine Riding and Richard Johns, Turner and the Sea, 2013
  • John Ruskin, Modern Painters, 5 vols (1843–60)
  • Sam Smiles, JMW Turner: The Making of a Modern Artist, 2007
  • David Solkin (ed.), Turner and the Masters, 2009

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.