Saturday, August 30, 2008

one good turner deserves another

I was quickly flipping through my photographs of my most recent trip to Melaque. And this one stopped me in mid-click. Actually, every time I browse through, it always has that effect.

There is almost something other-worldly about it. As if sunsets do not really look like this.

But they do. I was there. This is no artist's rendition.

And that last comment triggered the memory. It all came rushing back to me.

The year was 1975. I had been in England for less than two weeks, and found myself in one of the tourist temples of London: the National Gallery. In my self-assured early 20s, I had convinced myself that if I was looking at anything other than impressionism, it simply was not art.

But a master taught me I was wrong. In one room, there was painting after painting of Turners. I am certain I must have studied his work in college, but my pro-impressionist prejudice was riding high in the saddle even then.

I had never seen light displayed in such a non-realistic way -- remember this fellow is classified as a romantic. Even the impressionists did not capture light this successfully.

But a Melaque sunset does. What I saw in the sky was every bit as artistic as a Turner.

And I hope to see that canvas again soon.


Michael Dickson said...

You´re pretty sharp to make this connection.

1st Mate said...

What is that in the bottom right of the painting? It looks like a hobbled horse! If so, this may be a painting about the Horse Latitudes. Do you know the story about that?

Steve Cotton said...

Michael -- I am not certain it is sharpness. But it certainly is part of that incessant analysis that Babs scolds me about now and then.

Bliss -- I don't think it is a horse, though it looks like one. What looks like a horse leg is the arm of a slave still shackled. You can see other similar arms along the bottom of the painting. This work ("The Slave Ship") was Turner's contribution to the abolition movement. It shows a ship entering a storm. The captain has thrown sick and dying slaves overboard to collect insurance money. There are a couple of sea monsters attracted by the blood. You can see one on the far right mid-painting.

I am aware of the tale behind the horse latitudes. And the accompanying controversy of whether it is based on fact. On a cruise off the coast of Africa, we experienced the terrible calm of that region. Looked like a mirror. Not a ripple on the entire ocean.

American Mommy in Mexico said...

I agree this photo is special. When I clicked to enlarge, there are "somethings" along the bottom right hand side. At first I thought it was people but I looked again and thought it is just a fence. Either way, I like that the viewer can choose what they wanted it to be. I choose people.

Steve Cotton said...

American Mommy -- All art is representational. The viewer often sees something different that the artist thought he was painting. After all, I doubt God intended to make clouds look like my Aunt Naomi, but I see her now and then.

Babs said...

Scold, ME scold...Lordy, I hope not! I'm SO whipped from this tour "thingy" this week that you could knock me over with a feather tonight! This is the closest to "WORK" that I ever want to be again.........herding 24 people is like trying to herd cats.
I'll blog when I get back from Xilitla NEXT Saturday - YIKES!

Steve Cotton said...

Babs -- I would have said remonstrate, but I would have misspelled it -- and it too big of a word for me. I hope your herding goes well. We look forward to hearing words of wisdom from the shepherd -- or is that, cowgirl?

Jonna said...

Beautiful sunset picture. That's something I miss over here on the eastern seaboard, sunsets over the ocean. I have seen a couple of sunrises although I'm really not a dawn kind of person. They just don't have the punch though that a sunset does.

Babs said...

I decided yesterday that I needed eithr a policeman's shistle or a self-flaggelation whip.........hmm, shepherdess or cowgirl, probably a little of both!

Steve Cotton said...

Jonna -- There must be some scientific reason for the difference between sunsets and sunrises. But, like you, I would not know from personal experience. For all I know, sunrises are just as spectacular.

Steve Cotton said...

Babs -- I can see you now: a cross between Marie Antoinette and Hillary Clinton.