Volltext: The genius of J. M. W. Turner, R. A.

THE 
OIL-PAINTINGS 
TURNER 
Piranesi, evokes the idea or a life of melody, and our ears are full of 
the old Neapolitan refrains, sung in chorus by the sailors among 
the ropes. This fantastic aspect of Venice is not the Venice one 
sees through the eyes, as it were a photograph or a picture, faithful 
and true in tone ; yet it is far and away the best z'm_prem'0n we have 
of Venice, as seen with our eyes, breathed by our lungs, heard with 
our ears--and drank in and absorbed, so to speak, by all our senses ; 
and such is Turner's work.  .  
And the same with one's impression of the Northern Seas, with 
their storm-beaten ports, reeking of salt and tar and coal ; cold, too, 
and wet and lashing_thin gs which in painting can only be expressed 
by a representation of the wind, or, generally speaking, of the 
atmosphere, that is to say, by the most complicated play of clouds 
which break, vapours which sail through the air, and sails which 
belly 'neath the wind--visible Witnesses of an invisible element. 
To render all this is to be not idealist, but naturalist, whatever the 
methods employed. Doubtless, Turner's " documents " were quite 
insignificant-not more than forty oil studies and notes innumerable 
made on scraps of letter-paper, incoherent jottings, " quite unin- 
telligible to others," as Cyrus Redding puts it. But these " docu- 
ments " were true, and for him were full of revelations. None but 
Turner himself could have used them, but, using them, he painted 
more truly than any other. 
" Look," said he to his travelling companion. " Look well; you 
will see that again one of these days ; but let us go, let us go, the 
effect is passing away 1" Back in his studio, he reconstituted the 
scene, putting in many bits of perfectly true landscape which he 
had seen, and seen well. 
There are two modes of being naturalistic: doing what Nature 
lzas realised, or doing what Nature can realise ; copying her results, 
or inspiring oneself by her laws. Turner perhaps did not paint any 
one of his pictures " after " Nature, and some hundreds he certainly 
painted without having.Nature before his eyes. Is such a thing 
legitimate? ls it absurd? May it not be necessary sometimes? 
Here we must distinguish clearly. An object which does not change 
its form in two or three hours, one which does not change colour in 
twenty or thirty minutes, which can be found every day, or nearly 
every day in the same place, unchanged in colour, and lighted in 
the same manner: a tree, for example, a house, a pool, a rock. 
The naturalist cannot do better than paint such things direct from 
Nature, from the first touch to the last, in accordance with the 
 precept laid down by Ruskin for the P.R.B. in their early days. 
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Waiting...

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