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Room: JMW Turner

This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk

Curator David Brown explores the work of JMW Turner. Check out Turner Online for an in-depth look at the artist's life and work.

Learn more about the art featured in this video:
- JMW Turner, The Shipwreck, exhibited 1805
- JMW Turner, Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus, exhibited 1839.
Created by Tate.

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Video transcript

by standing here in the floor gallery which was built to house the collection paintings by JMW Turner who is really one of the most important artists in Jane's collection this is the shipwreck which turn exhibited in eighteen five it's one of his largest earlier pictures and it shows a dramatic scene at sea and it's of course completely imaginary we don't know that Turner was ever caught in a shipwreck like this he's had to imagine everything but he's done so with amazing vigor and the way in which he's painted the sea with all the froth and spray and the waves circling around is really quite extraordinary Turner was aware of an earlier tradition of marine painting going back to 17th century artists many of whom were Dutch but he's completely reanimated it here and brought it to life for his own time the beginning of the 19th century and the whole composition functions as a kind of vortex Turner was very interested in these sweeping and circling compositions throughout his life but they also when one looks at these pictures have the effect of drawing the viewer in as well so that may become almost part of the subject this painting is called ancient Rome Agra Pina landing with ashes of Germanicus which is perhaps rather a daunting title today but the story of Agra Pina was very well known to Turner's generation it's a story from Roman history and it's all about the dedication of a widow Agra Pina whose husband that died at Antioch possibly poisoned possibly murdered but she was absolutely devoted to him and she brought his ashes back to Italy not in fact to Rome as Turner shows in the picture but to Brindisi and he'd been reading the wrong book he'd been really Roman history which told the story slightly wrong when got the place of her arrival incorrect but that doesn't matter he's used the picture there's a chance to reconstruct the architecture of ancient Rome sometimes the stories that Turner's telling in his pictures are quite hard to find or to discern because the main interest for him was the background the subject the landscape or in this case the architecture by the time Tyler painted the picture one of his being interest was light and atmosphere and the effects that sunlight mists atmospherics had on solid form and it's wonderful I think to see how this great vision of the ancient city seems to be both emerging and dissolving into mist you