The Slave Ship J.M.W Turner

2 February 2018

The Slave Ship painting by British Artist Turner is said to have been inspired by the practice of the late eighteenth century Atlantic slave traders who would throw the dead and dying slaves overboard in order to collect the insurance money paid out upon their death but only if they drowned.

Turner is said to have been influenced by the ‘Gong Massacre of slaves 1781’ http:// In this essay I intend to discuss three aspects of the work. The first will be the subject matter of the painting the second will be the composition and finally the style and colors in which it was painted.With The Slave Ship it may have been a personal relationship between the Artist and his subject matter or it may have been that he was enrolled among other artists for example like Johan Morris Reground 1802-1858 and Augusta- FranΓ§ois Board 1979-1882 to advance the Abolitionists cause worldwide through their art. ‘The British Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade: its emblem of 1 787 with a chained black slave begging to be freed and a diagram Of a slave ship illustrating the inhuman way in which Africans were stowed when crossing the Atlantic’. (A World History of Art – Hugh Honor ND John Fleming P. 56) Although slavery was abolished in Britain at the time that this painting was painted it was still thriving in Europe, the United States and many other places throughout the world. Turner has taken a sensitive matter of that time and through his work has shown the atrocity of slavery and the treatment of slaves in a very direct and uncompromising way.

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The lack of value on a living human being is shown by Turner through the visual image of the slaves who were diseased or dying having been thrown into an unmerciful sea. The complete disregard for the ate or state of these slaves who were only seen as a commodity is forcefully shown.My initial reaction to The Slave Ship was one of interest and then shock. At first I thought was looking at a stormy seascape. A ship fighting for control with a turbulent sea in the background then as my eye was drawn across from the ship and toward the bottom of the painting I started to see shackles and chains attached to human limbs coming out of the water desperately reaching for help. The maroon and red colors in the Water that you See is actually the sea stained with the blood of supernatural sea creatures gorging n drowning human beings. A raging dark sky and sea and then the sun shining made for incongruous and brutal viewing.

Slaves cast overboard (detail of the Slave Ship) http://www. Victorianism. Org/art/crisis/Carlisle. HTML don’t think that it is immediately clear what is happening in the painting but it is definitely obvious that something terrible is going on. The title explains everything. The way The Slave Ship is composed is immediately interesting to the eye. The ominous sky with the sun shining on and across part of the sea gives a stark contrast.

The ship is going to the left looking very vulnerable but till determined with the sails of the vessel furled as if to prepare for worsening storm conditions.This is depicted by the sky and the winds that are evidently high judging by the size of the swell and foam of the sea. In the positioning of the lower foreground there are huge fish feasting and the arms and leg sticking out of the water are manacled and of dark skin, that suggests they are the limbs of drowning slaves. Above that to the right is a very large sea creature that appears to be moving toward the carnage at high speed and to the left Of the foreground birds are circling the bodies in the water. The birds appear to be very small when compared to the fish and the leg.I believe that The Slave Ship opposes vantage points to communicate to the viewer both sympathy and judgment. The composition of this work differs from other Romantic landscapes which show nature in all its beauty and serenity.

[pick Sea creature coming through the waves to feast on the slaves (detail of the Slave Ship) ‘Romantic artists used their art to portray their love and connection with nature. Their painting techniques generally encompass bright, vibrant colors, or paler and darker tones that do not provide contrast within the painting, UT are rather blended and create a softer image.Many times, the immediate focus of the eye is drawn to some component of nature rather than the manmade aspects. Many times the painters brush strokes do not create precise lines, but are vague and provide a “blurred” perception’ http:// Protectionism’s. Wiseacres. Com/Art The use of light and color in The Slave Ship has a dramatic effect. It contains a broad range of colors varying from the dark blues, reds, maroons yellows oranges and pinks.

‘In this specific painting Turner used a technique where pure colors are altered through the other layers of the painting and can be seen shining through, creating a glowing, and luminous effect’. Http:// protectionism’s. Wiseacres. Com/The+Sieve+Ship Oil paint applied thickly helps Turner achieve the smeared effect. The brush strokes blend together and the technique of impasto allows the thick application of the oil paint to create the bright sun. The colors chosen produce a realistic effect, the brush strokes are strong and at times appear aggressive at though the strength of the brushstroke can represent the strength of nature that the artist is portraying. The only part of the painting with strong definition and shading is the leg sticking out of the water.

Special attention has been given to make sure this is not blurred or merging into its surroundings like the rest of the painting. This is for a reason and I do believe it is what draws your eye downward from the ship In a constructed manner purposely planned by the artist ‘Though almost all of his critics believed that the painting represented an all time low in Turner’s reckless disregard for the rules Of art, it was in fact his greatest triumph in the sculptural carving of space’. Http://www. BBC. Co. / arts/powerboat/turner. SHTML In conclusion I think that Turners Slave Ship is hugely successful and achieves a great deal.

It reaches out to the viewer and calls on them to reflect on the subject matter in all its raw and base unpleasantness. It is a moving work of art which was ground breaking for its time, controversial in both its content and in the way it broke the rules of the Romantic era. The composition of the painting is both interesting and exciting with tragedy, beauty, justice and injustice.The colors used are strong and determined and I believe reflect and highlight the situation. John Risking the Critic who owned the painting and who was also a close friend of Turners wrote ‘But I think (it’s) the noblest sea that Turner has ever painted, and if so, the noblest certainly ever painted by man, is that of The Slave Ship, the chief Academy picture of the exhibition of 1840…

. I believe, if I were reduced to rest Turner’s immortality upon any single work, I should choose this’.Modern Painters (1846); Constructionist:// everything. Com/title/The+Slave+Ship Compared to today with Our overload Of visual images from all over the world that are communicated directly into our homes, cars and portable appliances thin minutes of occurring, the means of communications was hugely limited in 1840 when Turner painted the Slave Ship. That was a time of different and restrictive views and I believe that the brilliance of Turner is that he sought to communicate a message through his medium.

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