JMW Turner, filmed by Mike Leigh

This video says about itself:

Film meets Art – Mike Leigh inspired by JMW Turner

26 November 2013

Mike Leigh on transforming Turner‘s life and work into cinema.

Mike Leigh takes time out from shooting his new feature about the life and work of JMW Turner to share his passion for the great painter of landscape and light, and shows us how he takes detailed scenes from Turner’s sketches and recreates them for the camera.

On 25 December 2014, I saw the film Mr Turner, in a packed cinema hall.

Before Mike Leigh’s movie started, there was a short film about drawings by Turner. This famous English artist lived 1775-1851.

This video is called Mr. Turner Official Trailer #1 (2014) – Mike Leigh Biopic HD.

Timothy Spall plays the title role. The first scene shows Turner in the Netherlands, making a sketch for a landscape painting.

The film is not only about Turner’s artistic life, but also his personal life. The two intermingled. Turner often made everything subordinate to his art. In the film, when Turner is ill, he runs outside from his sickbed to make a drawing, thus hastening his death. He was also often not good at relationships with women.

Turner was interested in science and technology. The film shows an interest in photography, then just emerging. Turner also had products of the industrial revolution, like steamboats and trains, in his paintings.

That was one of the reasons why Turner, besides admiration, also faced strong opposition from powerful establishment people. According to establishment art rules, landscape paintings, much of Turner’s work, were not as august as mythological or historical subjects. And having recent inventions in his landscape art also did not endear Turner to conservative critics.

Other objections were against Turner’s ‘modernist’ way of painting, sometimes bordering on abstraction.

Turner was also from a humble family, contrary to many of his opponents in the art world.

A defender of Turner’s work was famous art critic John Ruskin. The film depicts Ruskin as a pedantic young man. I agree with film critic Jeff Sawtell, who wrote that Ruskin does not deserve this simplism.

Nevertheless, Sawtell gave the film five out of five stars.

I tend to agree with that too. Nevertheless, one more reason for establishment people to hate Turner does not really appear in the film. I will explain this.

The film mentions one of Turner’s most famous paintings.

William Turner, Slavers throwing overboard the dead and dying

William Turner painted his Slavers throwing overboard the dead and dying in 1840, just after the official abolition of slavery in the British empire.

Translated from Dutch VARA TV Magazine #48, 2007, about Simon Schama´s Power of Art:

We see a slave ship somewhere on an ocean, in the eye of a storm. Dying and dead slaves are seen being thrown overboard. Because this ´merchandise´ did no longer have any commercial value, slave traders in this way could reclaim lost profits from insurance companies for ´drowning´.

The painting was criticized for various reasons. … The upper class did not want to be reminded of the inhuman slave trade and they also found Turner´s use of colours too subjective.

The film does mention this work; saying that Turner got the idea for painting it from a former naval carpenter telling about the horrors which he had seen on slave ships. But the film does not mention the enmity against this subject in the Establishment.

This video says about itself:

Timothy Spall and Mike Leigh on Mr. Turner

In one of the last scenes in the film, a rich businessman offers the painter £100,000 to buy all his works. According to 21st century standards, that would have made Turner a millionaire. However, Turner refuses: he says the British government should inherit all of his art, so that people will be able to see it for free.

Jeff Sawtell wrote about this:

It’s a pity it took 200 years for Turner to be provided with a gallery for the 300 works he bequeathed to the nation, so that we can view them gratis.

Yet another reason to resist museum charges.

There is a big Turner exhibition in London right now. Unfortunately, unlike Turner wanted, it is not free; as the present British government prefers spending money on tanks and on nuclear weapons.

This video says about itself:

6 October 2014

Mike Leigh and the cast of “Mr. Turner” discuss the film at a press conference during the 52nd New York Film Festival.

A portrait of the great painter J.M.W. Turner and his time, but also an extremely clear-eyed film about art and its creation, and the great human problem of sharing a life with other people. Featuring a remarkable performance from director Mike Leigh’s frequent collaborator, Timothy Spall.

This video from Britain says about itself:

Mr. Turner screening: Q&A with Mike Leigh and Francine Stock

30 October 2014

Join us for an exciting opportunity to hear one of the world’s leading film directors in conversation at Tate Britain, where much of the production team’s research into the work of J.M.W. Turner took place.

This video says about itself:

20 October 2014

Acclaimed British filmmaker Mike Leigh returns to Studio Q to discuss his latest film, “Mr. Turner”: a biopic on the life of British landscape painter J.M.W. Turner.

11 thoughts on “JMW Turner, filmed by Mike Leigh

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