4 April 2006


" Holy Island" (1820)
by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)
I'm posting this picture in honour of Cliff, author of a fairly new Yorkshire blog called "Cliff's Column" which I can assure you, in spite of the title, is not the homepage of some superstud lothario! Cliff applauded arguably the greatest English painter of all time - J.W.B.Turner.
Turner was born in London in rather humble circumstances. At the age of twenty seven he became a member of the exclusive Royal Academy of Artists. In pursuit of his art, he travelled widely - first through Great Britain and then through Europe. His focus became wild nature, swirling mistily and mysteriously, leaving man dwarfed and overwhelmed.
In the selected painting above there has been some sort of shipwreck. People gather on the shore. The stormy sky merges with the stormy sea. Light above appears to promise a better world beyond this one. The setting is Lindisfarne or Holy Island off the Northumberland coast, the spiritual launchpad for Christianity in England - a wild, exposed place with its defiant castle and cathedral ruins, still reached by a tidal causeway, a place where monks continue to manufacture honeyed wine or mead. The other great English landscape artist, John Constable, referred to Turner's "airy visions". He was a watercolour pioneer - discovering that this medium enabled freer expression of his then rather unique perception of the elements.
By the way, Yorkshire Pudding with Mrs Pudding and the little puddings is away to Ireland on Thursday for his niece's wedding. If he survives the ceremony, the wedding feast, arguments with Aran islanders, the reading he's been asked to deliver and the gallons of Guinness that will undoubtedly flow into the early hours, he will be back to post again at the weekend. Please don't burgle Pudding Towers while he's away!


  1. Thanks for the mention Sir and I am dead chuffed that you've posted not only a Turner but a painting from the North east. I think the north of england's open spaces, big skies and changing weather and Turner's romantic pre-impressionist view go together so well, not to disregard his european, classical and petworth house based works which are terrific too.

    Only this january did I pass Holy Island on the big blue train bound for the Vaughn bequest up in Embra and already this article has me logging on to London train timetables to get back down to the Clore and other Turner exhibiting locations in the smoke.

    Turner travelled to the North when we were several days of difficult journey from London carrying what must have been stacks of supplies and produced some of my favourite paintings, one of the tops for me being Norham Castle and he didn't even finish that one. He also painted my home town of Richmond and whilst he took a certain license with some scenes and viewpoints you can still walk up the river to Billy Banks Woods and stand on the very spot he stood and see pretty much the same view back toward the town.

    The way people react to paintings probably says as much about them as about the painter and I'm biased because I'm english, live in the north and like nothing better to stand on a windswept moor with the sun on one horizon and a black rainstorm on the other but Turner moves me like no other painter and if you are anywhere near anything he did you should go and visit immediately.

    PS the 'Cliff's Column' title was intended to confer a certain ironic journalistic gravitas to my ill informed ramblings rather than your own interpretation but we country folk are as innocent as in Turner's day and other possible meanings didn't occur to me I'm afraid.

    Thanks for showing this picture and I'll shut up now

  2. I consider Turner to be the first true "modernist". His art was free of the need to "photograph" on canvas, the scene in front of him.

    A complete genius.

  3. It's lovely to see all this artwork popping up. I'm a huge fan of the visual arts. umm, of course, being an artist of sorts, myself, makes it even more entertaining because I learn from everything I see.

    Have fun at the wedding. Hello to Cliff!

  4. Have a wonderful time. Hopefully you will have survived.

    Best wishes to the couple.


Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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