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The Slave Ship

  • Date Submitted: 11/10/2010 11:23 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 45.9 
  • Words: 3285
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The nineteenth century art world accurately resonated with the events of its time. Age-old Western traditions and values were questioned and challenged openly in all forms of communication, public and private1. In an age of anti-conformity, societal and intellectual upheavals were common and almost expected. Monarchies met oppositions in the form of a growing faith in democracy and the church lost its respect among believers2. A new age longing for an expression of emotions, free of restraints, emerges as the dominating inspiration for writers, musicians, and artists3. The 1800s art scene was divided in distinct schools of thoughts constantly challenging and responding to one another4. In particular, romanticism stressed sensibility and human’s ability to choose intuition over rational objectivity. Romantics rebelled against the Neoclassic faith in reason and instead pursued a genuine passion found in heroic figures, intense suffering, and powerful nature5. Joseph Mallord William Turner, an exemplary Romantic painter, obstinately strived to elevate the status of landscape painting, which he infused and highlighted with the supernatural elements of heroic connotation6. The departure from the holy biblical stories and the glorification of noblemen to the tales of ordinary but amazing men in the context of nature became Turner’s obsession and trademark. His artistic instinct was embodied with an inner divinity, and his subjects and artistic experiments reflected in his radical perspective, approach to painting, and his passion for dramatic depictions of thunderstorms and fires6. The Slave Ship is a depiction worthy of close investigation in an attempt to understand Turner’s motivation and expression. In this paper, succinct background information of the artist, the painting, and art period of the time will first be introduced to establish a necessary context for further examination of Turner’s works of art. A formal analysis of the painting will follow, with arguments...

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