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Turner's gallery: opposite the door

At the very end of the gallery, straight ahead as you enter, you would be greeted by a group of five paintings. Take a look at three of the more important paintings below.
Joseph Mallord William Turner, England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday, exhibited 1819, oil paint on canvas, 180 x 334 cm (Tate)
This large, grand panorama of the Thames River would have been shown in the centre of the end wall of the gallery. Painted after the end of the Napoleonic wars, it presents an idyllic vision of England, with an opening patriotic message in the reference to the Prince Regent. The Prince’s official birthday, 23 April, was not only Turner’s birthday, but also the day of St George, the patron saint of England.
Turner intended this painting to be a contemporary celebration of England in the early 19th century; it faces a painting hanging on the opposite wall depicting the great ancient city of Carthage. Do you think the arrangement of these two paintings was intentional?
Joseph Mallord William Turner, War – The Exile and the Rock Limpet, exhibited 1842, oil paint on canvas, 79 x 79 cm (Tate)
This painting set upon the floor is a companion piece to Peace – Burial at Sea, which stands on the other side this gallery wall. In this boldly coloured painting, Turner embodies the idea of war in the shape of a famous figure. Can you recognize him by his uniform? He’s meant to be Napoleon Bonaparte, seen after being sent into exile and lit up by an intense and apocalyptic sunset. He is watching and thinking about the limpet, a tiny aquatic snail which, despite its insignificant size and simple life, is at least free to live where it pleases (unlike the exiled Napoleon.)
Joseph Mallord William Turner, Peace - Burial at Sea, exhibited 1842, oil paint on canvas, 87 x 86 cm (Tate)
This painting is the companion to War –The Exile and the Rock Limpet, shown on the floor in the opposite corner. Whereas War is epitomised by Napoleon, Peace refers to the funeral of Turner’s friend and colleague, the painter David Wilkie. He had died on board ship while returning from the Middle East in 1841, and was buried at sea off the coast of Gibraltar. Despite being about death, the deep and solemn colours give the painting a sense of calm. Some critics disliked the harsh blackness of the ship’s sails, but Turner defiantly replied by saying “I only wish I had any colour to make them blacker.”
How would you compare these two paintings? Do they make you think of war and peace, or do they call to mind a different pair of opposites? Warmth and cold? Sunset and sunrise?

Want to join the conversation?

  • spunky sam blue style avatar for user Bimal Shahi
    it will better if you will post some practical videos doing paintings so that it will be easier for me and some children that how to paint so please.....
    (0 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • female robot ada style avatar for user Ms Jennifer
      Well, although I believe Mr Alexander's reprimand a bit harsh, Khan Academy has had many wonderful videos on sculpture and wood printing, so KA has indeed had many wonderful instructional videos.
      At the same time, I too wish there were fewer essays and more videos if for no other reason that we cannot focus on on things that seem oh-so-obvious to the essayist. For example, where can we find the rock limpet?
      Turner is hard enough to appreciate when you can get up close and personal with him, but essays about his work are not overly helpful unless we can see to what the essayist is referring.
      (1 vote)