2014 has seen the great painter JMW Turner remind the public of his immense talent and enduring influence in the world of art. Earlier this year we reported on ‘Mr. Turner’ the award winning biopic of the 19th Century British painter, directed by Mike Leigh and starring Timothy Spall as the cantankerous, monosyllabic genius. The film was met with rave reviews winning Spall the coveted Cannes best actor award as well as putting him firmly in contention for the Baftas and quite possibly Oscars.
Alongside the film, September saw the opening of ‘Painting Set Free’ the supreme exhibition of Turner’s late works held at the Tate Britain. The show and film both examine the final two decades of the artist’s life, a time where his output was at its most prolific. It was in these works that Turner embraced a radical and experiment approach to painting, he began to reduce the images down until they were luminous depictions of pure colour and light.
This month has seen one of the last privately owned Turner masterpieces go under the hammer at Sotheby’s for a record £30.3M. The painting, ‘Rome, From Mount Aventine’, was based on detailed sketches Turner made during his second trip to the city in 1828. Alex Bell who is the co-chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Painting Department, spoke about the quality and longevity of the piece: “This painting, which is nearly 200 years old, looks today as if it has come straight from the easel of the artist. The picture retains the freshness of the moment it was painted: the hairs from Turner's brush, his fingerprint, the drips of liquid paint which have run down the edge of the canvas, and every scrape of his palette knife have been preserved in incredible detail.” The attention on Turner this year just goes to show the enduring appeal of the great “painter of light”.