Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

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Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#1  Postby jamest » Apr 30, 2013 1:45 am

I'm no art expert, but after watching a documentary on J.M.W. Turner and seeing some of his later works, I exclaimed to myself: "Fuck me, that's Impressionism!".

Well, it seemed like that to me. The problem was, he died a few decades before Impressionism started. So, what do the art experts here think? Consider, for example:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/ ... rn-railway

Or:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Slave-ship.jpg

Or:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chich ... 828%29.jpg

So, did the Frenchies steal his thunder?!!!
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#2  Postby epepke » Apr 30, 2013 2:48 am

Probably for the same reason that Beethoven is not considered to have had anything to do with romanticism, even though a lot of his stuff is very clearly romantic in the sense that it was used later. Art historians prefer thinking in terms of movements rather than a progression of ideas. The "French or it didn't happen" idea also has some effect.

Once in High School, we had to do a presentation on a style of music. I did mine on jazz. Another kid did one on jazz, too, but they dovetailed perfectly, because he was into the simple stuff, and I was into Hancock and Monk and Davis and Gillespie. Another kid did one on the neoclassical movement, and I really pissed her off by saying that neoclassicism wasn't classical at all. I love Stravinsky, but he hacked and perverted classical forms. Stravinsky was about as classical as The Onion is real news. The idea as in the Wikipedia that neoclassicism was anti-progressive is just so much pablum down the bib.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#3  Postby jamest » Apr 30, 2013 9:05 am

Are you agreeing that some/many of the ingredients of Impressionism can be observed in [some of] Turner's works?
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#4  Postby epepke » Apr 30, 2013 9:09 am

jamest wrote:Are you agreeing that some/many of the ingredients of Impressionism can be observed in [some of] Turner's works?


Of course. It's completely obvious if you look at the paintings. Funny thing about paintings: you can look at them.

But if you are reading commentary about paintings and stuff about movements, you're doing something else.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#5  Postby jamest » Apr 30, 2013 9:23 am

epepke wrote:
jamest wrote:Are you agreeing that some/many of the ingredients of Impressionism can be observed in [some of] Turner's works?


Of course. It's completely obvious if you look at the paintings. Funny thing about paintings: you can look at them.

But if you are reading commentary about paintings and stuff about movements, you're doing something else.

It's odd that I've never heard anyone else mention this before. I had always thought that Impressionism was a completely new movement, being the art-dummy that I am. As you imply, there seems to be something askew with the commentary.
Then again, perhaps we're both missing something significant. Watch this space, an expert may turn up.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#6  Postby orpheus » Apr 30, 2013 4:34 pm

Two things to keep in mind. The first is trivial: "impressionism" was originally intended as an insulting critical term. Things are not always what they seem.

The second thing is much more important: art history is not linear. No matter what anyone says, it simply isn't. And for so many reasons. X does something, then Y does. Is it causal? Did Y have an opportunity even to see the work in question? Even if so, did X's work have any appreciable influence on Y's thinking (bearing in mind that Y is an active working artist with ideas and trajectories and other influences - and is not just a tabula rasa sitting there waiting for a specific influence)? Also, artists see many things and sometimes copy, sometimes reject, incorporate, modify, misunderstand, use for one's own's ends, etc.

And this is only limiting the factors to art itself - leaving aside everything else in the world that influences an artits's work.

I'm not saying influence doesn't happen, and sometimes it really is quite clear. But it's rarely simple.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#7  Postby epepke » Apr 30, 2013 4:39 pm

orpheus wrote:Two things to keep in mind. The first is trivial: "impressionism" was originally intended as an insulting critical term. Things are not always what they seem.

The second thing is much more important: art history is not linear. No matter what anyone says, it simply isn't. And for so many reasons. X does something, then Y does. Is it causal? Did Y have an opportunity even to see the work in question? Even if so, did X's work have any appreciable influence on Y's thinking (bearing in mind that Y is an active working artist with ideas and trajectories and other influences - and is not just a tabula rasa sitting there waiting for a specific influence)? Also, artists see many things and sometimes copy, sometimes reject, incorporate, modify, misunderstand, use for one's own's ends, etc.

And this is only limiting the factors to art itself - leaving aside everything else in the world that influences an artits's work.

I'm not saying influence doesn't happen, and sometimes it really is quite clear. But it's rarely simple.


I totally agree.

But when art history is taught, at least in introductory classes, a kind of pseudo-linear presentation is given. Actually, it applies to many fields. People seldom talk about golems when discussing the appearance of robots in science fiction, and people seldom talk about the atomic model of Democritus when talking about atomic theory.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#8  Postby orpheus » Apr 30, 2013 5:24 pm

epepke wrote:
orpheus wrote:Two things to keep in mind. The first is trivial: "impressionism" was originally intended as an insulting critical term. Things are not always what they seem.

The second thing is much more important: art history is not linear. No matter what anyone says, it simply isn't. And for so many reasons. X does something, then Y does. Is it causal? Did Y have an opportunity even to see the work in question? Even if so, did X's work have any appreciable influence on Y's thinking (bearing in mind that Y is an active working artist with ideas and trajectories and other influences - and is not just a tabula rasa sitting there waiting for a specific influence)? Also, artists see many things and sometimes copy, sometimes reject, incorporate, modify, misunderstand, use for one's own's ends, etc.

And this is only limiting the factors to art itself - leaving aside everything else in the world that influences an artits's work.

I'm not saying influence doesn't happen, and sometimes it really is quite clear. But it's rarely simple.


I totally agree.

But when art history is taught, at least in introductory classes, a kind of pseudo-linear presentation is given. Actually, it applies to many fields. People seldom talk about golems when discussing the appearance of robots in science fiction, and people seldom talk about the atomic model of Democritus when talking about atomic theory.


I know. And when I taught intro music history, I vowed to do it differently. And it just didn't work. At least I couldn't make it work; I just confused people. Ultimately I had to realize that beginners (at least) were being asked to assimilate a huge amount of knowledge along with new (for them) concepts - and they simply needed a chronological framework, however problematic it might look to me. After all, I had to admit, that's how I learned it too. And just about all artists/musicians I know. Everybody needs training wheels for a little while. 

I got quite depressed about this until I realized that their education needn't stop there. Once they were "on their feet", so to speak, I could then talk with them about the real picture. Remove the training wheels. I do recall I often tried to replace the "river" metaphor with one of music history as an ocean - a huge, seething body of stuff with internal currents, influences, patterns here and there, some of which recur, some of which are one-offs, some parts of which are intimately connected with others (even if separated geographically or chronologically), and some parts of which had nothing at all to do with other parts. And it all had surface weather too, affected by and having effects on external entities, etc.

More accurate, but pedagogically impossible to start with, perhaps. 
Last edited by orpheus on Apr 30, 2013 5:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#9  Postby Emmeline » Apr 30, 2013 5:35 pm

Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?


He is credited as a significant influence as far as I can recall from all the things I've read about him and also about those artists who came later and were labelled 'Impressionists'.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#10  Postby felltoearth » Apr 30, 2013 5:59 pm

I think Turner is brilliant in his own right. To the OP, he doesn't have to be included in Impressionism to legitimize his brilliance especially as Impressionism is an extremely artificial category as other posters have noted.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#11  Postby epepke » Apr 30, 2013 8:23 pm

orpheus wrote:More accurate, but pedagogically impossible to start with, perhaps. 


True, but we're all bright boys and girls here. We can see (or hear) how Turner relates to Impressionism, how Bosch relates to Surrealism, and how Beethoven relates to the Romantic composers. When I hook up an Arduino to some motors and wheels, if I say that I'm making golems, and my chems are called "sketches," well, maybe an average frosh would not know what I mean, but you can figure it out easily.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#12  Postby orpheus » Apr 30, 2013 8:39 pm

epepke wrote:
orpheus wrote:More accurate, but pedagogically impossible to start with, perhaps. 


True, but we're all bright boys and girls here. We can see (or hear) how Turner relates to Impressionism, how Bosch relates to Surrealism, and how Beethoven relates to the Romantic composers. When I hook up an Arduino to some motors and wheels, if I say that I'm making golems, and my chems are called "sketches," well, maybe an average frosh would not know what I mean, but you can figure it out easily.


Ah, music to me tired old ears.

Right then. To go further, we'd need to look at the specifics of the case before us. Though I love Turner and much of (but by no means all) Impressionism, I simply don't know enough of the details to be of much help.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#13  Postby Regina » Apr 30, 2013 9:06 pm

jamest wrote:I'm no art expert, but after watching a documentary on J.M.W. Turner and seeing some of his later works, I exclaimed to myself: "Fuck me, that's Impressionism!".

Well, it seemed like that to me. The problem was, he died a few decades before Impressionism started. So, what do the art experts here think? Consider, for example:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/ ... rn-railway

Or:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Slave-ship.jpg

Or:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chich ... 828%29.jpg

So, did the Frenchies steal his thunder?!!!

Eh? Turner's influence on the Impressionists is well recognized, so what exactly is your problem?
That being said, his an their intentions differ.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#14  Postby jamest » Apr 30, 2013 9:58 pm

Regina wrote:
Eh? Turner's influence on the Impressionists is well recognized, so what exactly is your problem?
That being said, his an their intentions differ.

Problem? I'm obviously trying to find out why Turner wasn't credited with being the father of Impressionism, as some of his works seem utterly Impressionist to my untrained eye. I'm just enjoying being enlightened by those more in the know, so please feel free to express yourself.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#15  Postby ramseyoptom » Apr 30, 2013 11:06 pm

I suspect one reason the Turner is not credited as the father of Impressionism is a form of art world snobbery. For some continental art critics the idea that a major art movement could be traced to a British artist would be anathema, especially that quite a few of the Impressionists were French.

This may seem a chauvanistic statement, but I have noticed that in the art world, especially the European, that the idea that Britain/England could contribute originality to art is treated as laughable.

Personally I think J M W Turner is brilliant, a trip to Tate Britain is well worth it. They did a exhibition a year or so ago showing Turner's work alongside those artists and pictures he used for inspiration and it was fascinating.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#16  Postby Regina » May 01, 2013 8:26 am

jamest wrote:
Regina wrote:
Eh? Turner's influence on the Impressionists is well recognized, so what exactly is your problem?
That being said, his an their intentions differ.

Problem? I'm obviously trying to find out why Turner wasn't credited with being the father of Impressionism, as some of his works seem utterly Impressionist to my untrained eye. I'm just enjoying being enlightened by those more in the know, so please feel free to express yourself.

Well, at the danger of repeating myself and what others have said, he is being credited as an influence. If the "father" bit is important to you, well, that's language. And, again, his artistic intentions and his technique differ significantly from those labelled "Impressionists". You could train those eyes of yours and have a look at a painting by Monet, for example, in comparison with a Turner. I find looking at things helps when dealing with visual art.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#17  Postby jamest » May 01, 2013 10:17 am

Regina wrote:
jamest wrote:
Regina wrote:
Eh? Turner's influence on the Impressionists is well recognized, so what exactly is your problem?
That being said, his an their intentions differ.

Problem? I'm obviously trying to find out why Turner wasn't credited with being the father of Impressionism, as some of his works seem utterly Impressionist to my untrained eye. I'm just enjoying being enlightened by those more in the know, so please feel free to express yourself.

Well, at the danger of repeating myself and what others have said, he is being credited as an influence. If the "father" bit is important to you, well, that's language. And, again, his artistic intentions and his technique differ significantly from those labelled "Impressionists". You could train those eyes of yours and have a look at a painting by Monet, for example, in comparison with a Turner. I find looking at things helps when dealing with visual art.

What are the significant differences between the works of Turner which seem Impressionistic and those of the Impressionists themselves? I have actually looked at works by the Impressionists which is why I noticed the similarities between them and some of Turner's paintings, which is the reason I started the thread. You say that Turner is credited as being an influence, but to what extent? Just how much of an influence was he? Could it not be said that he inadvertently started the movement? If not, then why not?
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#18  Postby Mike_L » May 01, 2013 10:53 am

I think it's purely a matter of the sum total of the painting's characteristics (or the techniques used to create it). According to Wikipedia these are the techniques employed...
* Short, thick strokes of paint quickly capture the essence of the subject, rather than its details. The paint is often applied impasto.
* Colours are applied side-by-side with as little mixing as possible, creating a vibrant surface. The optical mixing of colours occurs in the eye of the viewer.
* Grays and dark tones are produced by mixing complementary colours. Pure impressionism avoids the use of black paint.
* Wet paint is placed into wet paint without waiting for successive applications to dry, producing softer edges and intermingling of colour.
* Painters often worked in the evening to produce effets de soir—the shadowy effects of evening or twilight.
* Impressionist paintings do not exploit the transparency of thin paint films (glazes), which earlier artists manipulated carefully to produce effects. The impressionist painting surface is typically opaque.
* The play of natural light is emphasized. Close attention is paid to the reflection of colours from object to object.
* In paintings made en plein air (outdoors), shadows are boldly painted with the blue of the sky as it is reflected onto surfaces, giving a sense of freshness previously not represented in painting. (Blue shadows on snow inspired the technique.)

Painters throughout history had occasionally used these methods, but Impressionists were the first to use them all together, and with such consistency. Earlier artists who used these techniques include Frans Hals, Diego Velázquez, Peter Paul Rubens, John Constable, and J. M. W. Turner.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressionism#Impressionist_techniques

So, Turner's works possess some of the characteristics of impressionist paintings, but not the full range that is required to define them as "impressionist".

From the Wikipedia article on Turner's style...
His early works, such as Tintern Abbey (1795), stayed true to the traditions of English landscape. However, in Hannibal Crossing the Alps (1812), an emphasis on the destructive power of nature had already come into play. His distinctive style of painting, in which he used watercolour technique with oil paints, created lightness, fluency, and ephemeral atmospheric effects.
...

In his later years he used oils ever more transparently, and turned to an evocation of almost pure light by use of shimmering colour.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner#Style

More than anything, it's probably his use of transparent paint (glazes) that set his works apart from impressionism (in which the paint is used opaquely).
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#19  Postby epepke » May 01, 2013 10:19 pm

Regina wrote:Well, at the danger of repeating myself and what others have said, he is being credited as an influence. If the "father" bit is important to you, well, that's language. And, again, his artistic intentions and his technique differ significantly from those labelled "Impressionists". You could train those eyes of yours and have a look at a painting by Monet, for example, in comparison with a Turner. I find looking at things helps when dealing with visual art.


Probably, to be a father, it also helps to be around when your children are.

ETA: Maybe Turner is the funny uncle.
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Re: Why is Turner not credited as the father of Impressionism?

#20  Postby Shrunk » May 01, 2013 11:37 pm

This article from the Tate Gallery's website speaks directly to your question, jamest:

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/ ... rk-prophet
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