Turner's Modern World
A landmark publication positions Turner as a pioneer in depicting contemporary life in the wake of dizzying changes resulting from industrialization and modernization.
This monograph is tied to the first exhibition to highlight Turner's contemporary imagery--the most exceptional and distinctive aspect of his work. Rather than making claims for Turner as a proto-modernist, it explores what constituted modernity during his lifetime and what it meant to be a modern artist.
Turner's career spanned the Napoleonic Wars, the rise of the British Empire, the birth of finance capitalism and modern industrialization, as well as political, scientific, and cultural advances that transformed society and shaped the modern world. While historians have long recognized that the industrial and political revolutions of the late eighteenth century inaugurated far-reaching change and modernization, these were often ignored by artists as they did not fit into established categories of pictorial representation. This publication shows Turner updating the language of art and transforming his style and practice to produce revelatory, definitive interpretations of modern subjects.