An oil on canvas painted in 1840, the critic John Ruskins wrote of Turner's Slavers throwing overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhon coming on The Slave Ship in Modern Painters (1846);
But I think (it’s) the noblest sea that Turner has ever painted, and if so, the noblest certainly ever painted by man, is that of The Slave Ship, the chief Academy picture of the exhibition of 1840.... I believe, if I were reduced to rest Turner's immortality upon any single work, I should choose this.
The subject of the painting is based on an incident that occurred in 1783. The captain of a slave ship tossed sick and dying slaves overboard in hopes of collecting insurance on the claim that they were "lost at sea." The terror of the incident is met upon the canvas by Turner's use of color to fiercely portray his emotions of the event. The sun is changed into an incandescent comet among exploding scarlet clouds roiling above a sea clogged with the slaves ejected by its ruthless captain. The specifics of the event are lost in the swirling colors of the work.
Turner was a terrific creator whose unique invention was to free color from definition of line to express forces of nature uniting it with the artists stirring response. In artworks like this the reality of emotions is united with the reality of color. Turner's methods had an unpredictable effect on the future of painting as a medium in abstract art of the modern era. His innovations with the emotive and esthetic strength in pure color became the ultimate element in painting. Discarding shape and form to mere outline and the use of fluid color pushed the medium to the point at which the subject is almost seen through the paint itself.
Lometa. "Artists and Art in the Classroom" Tucson, Arizona.
1994. (Lecture presented at St Joseph's Catholic School.)
Justus, Kevin. "Art and Culture II." Tucson, Arizona.
1992. (Lecture presented at Pima Community College.)
De La Croix, Horst, Richard D. Tansey, and Diane Kirkpatrick.
Art Through the Ages. University of Michigan: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
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