This book prints, in one collection, the topographical paintings (technically, watercolour "drawings") of scenes in England and Wales which Turner produced with the intention of having them engraved and published. All of which sounds rather dull; but the paintings themselves sing off the page at you! High-quality reproduction on matt paper gives you a real feeling of the originals, many of which are no bigger in the flesh than seen here. The colours are fresh and vibrant, the graininess, bold brushstrokes and flow of washes which are Turner's trademarks are all clearly seen.
The engravings weren't a success, either technically or commercially, and Turner ended up buying the whole set up, plates and all, back at auction. Looking at these atmospheric, glowing paintings one wonder how anyone could ever have thought they'd work. Ninety of the subjects are shown as the original paintings; at the end are fourteen engavings, including one facing the original painting, for comparison. One can see how, attractive as the engravings are, they are utterly unlike the paintings.
Three introductory chapters give the background to the series, Turner's materials and techniques, and his idiosyncratic symbolism as seen in many of the works. Then follow notes, painting by painting and engraving by engraving, on the individual works. At the back there are further notes of academic interest; a concordance of the watercolours to Turner's catalogued sketchbooks, a schedule what was exhibited in Turner's lifetime, a list of engravings, and references and notes for the text.
This will be a useful book to students of Turner's work. Anyone who paints in watercolours will find it a valuable inspiration. Above all, however, it is a treat to the eye and a glorious pleasure to read.
Was this review helpful to you?