J.M.W. Turner and the Subject of History is an in-depth consideration of the artist's complex response to the challenge of creating history paintings in the early nineteenth century. Structured around the linked themes of making and unmaking, of creation and destruction, this book examines how Turner's history paintings reveal changing notions of individual and collective identity at a time when the British Empire was simultaneously developing and fragmenting. Turner similarly emerges as a conflicted subject, one whose artistic modernism emerged out of a desire to both continue and exceed his eighteenth-century aesthetic background by responding to the altered political and historical circumstances of the nineteenth century.
Leo Costello is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at Rice University, USA.
Contents: Introduction; 'A great and dreadful sea-fight': The Battle of Trafalgar (1806-8) and the end of contemporary history painting; 'The conception of a swamp'd world': destruction and creation in painting/history; 'This cross-fire of colours': Turner and the varnishing days; 'In Venice now': history, nature, and the body of the subject; The Slave Ship: painting/abolition/history; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.