Film: 5624

Art + Architecture | 1970 | Sound | Colour

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Synopsis:

The artist John William Mallord Turner was born in 1775 and died in 1851. His preoccupation with the study of weather is highlighted in the many paintings shown in this film. He took copious notes and sketches of the effects of weather. He combined his 'scenic knowledge' with a strong sense of imagination to create dramatic and often terrifying seascapes as well as depictions of tranquil English landscapes and far off lands.

The film begins with an aerial view of Turner's wooden paint box containing glass bottles of blue pigments. Turner's palette, thick with paint. Close-up of palette fades into one of Turner's paintings, possibly a section of sky, hazy, deep gold and blue hues. 'Turner' appears on the screen in white type. 18th Century drawing of the artist as a young man, sits in profile. Series of drawings of Turner as he grows up, voiceover discusses his personality. Camera close-up of Turner's face, distinctive features, looks straight at the camera, not described as much of a beauty.

Close-up of a night's sky. Camera pans out to show moon reflecting brightly on the sea, sail boats in the distance. Another nocturnal painting, bright moon, shines through clouds, illuminates them. Camera pans out to show the entire painting, turbulent sea, boats on the water, dramatic light of the moon. Painting of ships in a storm, dark clouds, threatening. Detail of clouds, tiny seagulls, camera travels around the painting. Close-up of flags rippling in the wind, clusters of figures in boats weathering the storm. Dramatic music is played and voiceovers of seagulls and peoples' cries are added. Close-up of crashing waves in detail, very realistic.

Calm tranquil scenes of rural England. Watercolour and oil sketches of farms, rivers, riverbanks, trees, cattle, horses and hills. Turner's 'love of colour' can be seen in these studies of nature, pastel hues.

Painted portrait of artist holding his palette, camera pans up the painting from his palette to his face, he looks directly at the viewer, dark hair. Voiceover describes Turner as the 'painter and poet of the day.' Turner's fascination with cloud effects. Camera pans in and out of painting showing turbulent sky, dramatic music helps convey this.

Image of Turner in profile, pencil sketch, looks almost like a caricature. Voiceover discusses misinterpretations of artist's personality. Series of images and drawings of Turner, dressed in top hat and tails, stocky build, holds a pad and paint brush. Recollections of peoples' meetings with Turner are described in the voiceover. Camera close-up of a sketch of the artist fades.

Large landscape painting, looks similar to a Poussin landscape, classical in style, quite polished in comparison to Turner's later works, small figure in foreground emphasises artist's concern with landscape and not portraiture or history painting, the composition is carefully planned, large trees frame the painting and the eye is carried into the distance, distant bridges and hills, atmospheric perspective, lots of detail in the foreground.

Turner includes figures in his paintings as a means to emphasise the power of nature, trees tower above depictions of people, sea crashes on top of them. Close-up of tree top, camera pans down it to a beach, exotic, land and sea surround it, boats in the distance, two tiny figures sit in the foreground. Large white buildings line a canal or river, bright ethereal light reflects on the water, possibly a far off land, sail boats and small figures, luminous light. Ancient buildings and ruins, probably a scene from his imagination combined with studies from nature, sun shines brightly in the middle of the painting, warm orange colours set against blues and white.

Detail of a painting, lots of intricate painting, small figures in the foreground have expressions, dramatic shadows, sense of movement and colour, majestic white buildings tower into the sky, seemed to be plucked from fairy tales, trees are very detailed, camera pans around the entire painting in close-up. Sail boats, backdrop is a hazy sky, mood is mysterious, vibrant colours contrasted with soft hues. Series of details of white majestic architecture, rising mists, roof tops.

Turner's style changes, from polished painting style to impastoed application of paint, impressionistic. Seascapes are painted with thick blobs of paint left on the surface of the canvas. Detail of sea. Crows flying in turbulent clouds. Exotic land with figures fighting a storm, music becomes dramatic. Series of details taken from depictions of extreme weather conditions, crashing waves, dramatic skies with lightning. Camera pans in and out of paintings, travels around them quickly. Close-up of figures lying injured during a storm. Close-up of the sun, fills the entire screen, orange. Music stops. Series of close-ups of sea in a storm, music starts again. Figures struggle against the elements, voiceover of people screaming. Less dramatic images of the sea, calm pastel colours.

Painting of Turner in the academy, he is painting a canvas hanging on a wall, onlookers surround him, Turner wears a top hat and 'black dress coat,' voiceover discusses his eccentric behaviour. Close-up of Turner's contemporary's painting in the academy alongside him, apparently Turner stole wet blobs of paint from other artists' canvases when he liked a particular colour and put it on his own canvas. Series of paintings depicting rivers and canals, pastels and luminous white light. Detail of sail boat, lots of people. Sail boats. Masts. Exaggerated skies and sunsets, rocks in the sea, clouds. Beaches and debris from washed up boats. Ruins, hazy/misty light, dark shadows stretching across land from trees. Studies of trees in different weather conditions. Mountains. Waterfalls. Detail of thickness of paint on canvas. Figures painted quickly, almost like sketches with paint, sense of immediacy. 18th Century ladies depicted in similar way.

Turner depicts the arrival of the Industrial Age, a tug boat pulls an old and elegant ship across water, smoke billowing out of tug boat. Close-up of possibly an imaginary world, reminiscent of Blake, hellish figures and skeletons move in landscape. Series of paintings possibly showing Turner's late work, devoid of detail, shapes look ghostly and stark, colours are ethereal. This film traces Turner's developments, not only in his approach to painting, but also his fascination with nature.


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