Monday, September 10, 2012

Turpin compared to Turner

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Theodore Turpin de Crisse’s The Bay of Naples and J.M.W. Turner’s The Slave Ship are two seascape oil paintings from 1840. Though their subject matter differs they can be compared and contrasted in various ways. Regardless of any differences found in the paintings, it is apparent that in both works nature directly relates to the depicted scene.

The two seascape paintings portray similar subject matter. Turner’s painting depicts a ship preparing to encounter a typhoon in the wide open sea. The captains aboard the ship decided to throw the dead and dying slaves overboard in order to make insurance claims for lives lost at sea. These figures can be seen in the rough waters, their shackled hands rising above the waves. While Turpin’s piece also shows the open sea, the narrative scene takes place on the rocky cliffs in the lower left hand corner. A shipwreck abandons sailors on the cliffs alongside menacing waves. Both realistic scenes reflect and represent the figures’ emotions. Turner’s chaotic and rough ocean relays the feeling of uncontrollable helplessness felt by the drowning slaves. The calm sea and serene sky in the background of Turpin’s painting sharply contrasts the rough cliffs and choppy waves in the foreground. The change in scene seems to represent the sudden change of events the sailors faced. Though the moods are somewhat different, the relations between subject matter and figures directly relates to nature in both works.

The different atmospheres felt in the paintings are emphasized by light and color. In Turner’s work the ominous sea consists mainly of dark browns, blacks and reflected red from the sky. Gradual light tones in the water help unify the sea and the victims as a whole. The sun is a violent bright orange-red that reflects the dismal subject matter. This orange-red shade also invades the majority of the sky. On the left hand side the sky is transformed in to dark blue-black tones that represent the oncoming typhoon. In the distance, the ship is a dark murky brown-black shade that conveys the immorality of those aboard, and the approaching doom they are about to face. The lighter right hand side symbolizes the safe area the ship has come from. Overall, Turner’s use of abstract light and color emphasizes the inconceivable actions of those aboard the ship. Turpin’s background consists of a peaceful blue sky, a bright setting sun, and a calm blue-green sea. This area features natural bright light, indicating the same safe quality found in Turner’s work. In the foreground the light and color sharply contrast the background. The sun casts sharp orange light on the dark brown cliffs. This light provides dramatic shading on the rough land. The sea is now a darker shad of green, capped with white foam. The change in color indicates the change in the force of the sea. Theatrical light helps highlight the rough waves that cause the shipwreck.

Brushstrokes are an additional factor that help contribute to the overall mood of the painting. Turner’s brushstrokes seem to blur color and form together. In particular the marks that make up the sea are so swift and blurred that the figures are barely discernable from the water. The chaotic free movement created by these brushstrokes represents the violent nature of both the surrounding environment and those aboard the ship. Turpin’s brushstrokes are much softer and clearer. The sharp edges make the images and figures easily recognizable. The clearer marks relate to the

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