(K. Brent Tomer),
The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W. Turner. By Franny Moyle. Viking; 508 pages; £25. To be published in America by Penguin in October.
NEITHER old admirers nor recent converts can seem to get enough of J.M.W. Turner. Franny Moyle’s biography, the latest of many in recent decades, is a fat, satisfying popular history of the man who was arguably Britain’s greatest painter. The book-jacket goes further, declaring Turner to be the world’s most famous landscape painter. Turner himself would have disagreed. His hero was Claude Lorrain, a 17th-century French landscape painter. Ms Moyle says he wept on seeing a painting by Claude on a subject that he had also tackled: “I shall never be able to paint anything like that picture,” he said.
Turner eventually outshone his hero by taking advantage of his momentous times. He quickly absorbed the importance of the Industrial Revolution, and was inspired by it. In his last 20 years, says Ms Moyle, he allowed himself to be himself, experimenting with colour and drawing inspiration from landscape….Continue reading