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A comprehensive overview
on 6 May 2008
Arranged chronologically the book is divided into six chapters; chapter one covers the first twenty five years of Turner's life with the other five chapters covering ten years each. Well written and very readable the text provides an insight into Turner the man and Turner the artist, and includes numerous quotations from Turner and his contemporaries; it succeeds among other things in bringing alive the artist as a person.
Concluding the book is an extensive Chronology; Inventory of the Late Residence of J.M.W. Turner; Turner's Library; Bibliography; a detailed List of Illustrations and an Index.
The book is fully illustrated throughout, with the images usually on or close to the page on which they are discussed. In total there are 186 illustrations of which 164 are in colour. The illustrations not in colour are mostly engravings and the like, period photographs or the work of other artists. The majority of the illustrations of Tuner's work are full page (or as large as the picture format will allow on the page with a margin), with some full-page or page-and-half bleed images along with a few double page images. There are a few actual-size details of paintings; very informative. The quality of the pictures is excellent, often revealing the texture of the paint, and the colour very good. Very usefully each picture is accompanied by a brief description or commentary, but irritatingly not with the details of the pictures dimensions; surely with the great range in size of Turner's work these should be included alongside the image, (there are of course to be found in the List of Illustrations).
This is a large handsome volume, almost square in format, which provides a very good survey of the artist and his work. It covers all aspects of Tuner's output, including his oils, water colours and examples from his sketch-books. The choice of work ranges from the very well known to the "I didn't know Turner painted that!" Very interesting are the few examples of his very early work, including a water colour produced when he was about eleven years old. Providing as it does a comprehensive overview of the artist and his work, this is a very worthwhile publication.