When Turner died in 1851, the general view of an artist's late work was one of decline. Indeed, Turner's own painting from 1845 onwards was described as indulgent, eccentric and 'repulsive', and even his devoted champion John Ruskin commented on its 'wholly inferior value'. However, from the early 1900s there was a major reassessment of Turner's later paintings and sketches. Commentators hailed his study of light as a visionary precursor to the ideas of the Impressionists. This continued into the twentieth century, with curatorial choices in some museums presenting Turner's late and unfinished work as distinctly modern. Through a number of key themes and studies into his subject matter, technique and personal activities, this new analysis challenges the historical conceptions of Turner's late style. The idea that as an elderly artist Turner was seen as introverted and detached by the Victorian art world is set against the fact that his paintings from 1835 were some of the most popular, accessible and intellectual that he created.
Meanwhile, questioning the notion that Turner's late work articulated a conclusive, radical vision that was heedless of public reaction, the texts explore how Turner had a very firm idea of the workings of the art market at that time. Fully illustrated in colour, and with contributions by some of the foremost Turner scholars, this book breaks new ground in the continuing study of the life and legacy of one of art's greatest masters.