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
Autumn Term 2020-21
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
% of module mark
Special assessment rules
% of module mark
Feedback on summative assessment within 20 working days.
David Blaney Brown (ed.), JMW Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, 2012