Joseph Mallord William Turner was a British painter, known as the painter of light. He lived from 1775-1851. He produced what historian Simon Schama called "The greatest British painting of the 19th century". If you don't like heavy stuff, I'd suggest you move on just about now. The painting Schama was referring to is "The Slave Ship", abbreviated from it's original name "Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhoon Coming On", which represents a very real event that occurred in 1781. Off of the coast of Jamaica, the slave ship Zong was running short of supplies and had slaves dying at an alarming rate The human cargo was insured, but only for losses at sea and not for dead on arrival. Approximately 140 Africans were thrown overboard, murdered in cold blood so the ships owners could claim compensation for the lost slaves.
|The Slave Ship, 1840|
This next painting (A Disaster at Sea) represents another shameful historical event. The Amphitrite, a ship carrying prisoners headed for Australia (108 women and 12 children), was grounded near Boulogne, France, by a gale, and started breaking apart. The French offered rescue assistance, but the captain declined because there were prisoners on-board. 133 lives were lost.
|A Disaster at Sea|
In my opinion, Turner's work embodies the essence of art. He produced stunning images, and if one chooses to look closer, those images have a powerful message. These next two are a couple of my personal favorite Turner paintings.
|Death on a Pale Horse, 1825-1830|
|Dawn After the Wreck, 1841|
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