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J.M.W. Turner's Most Famous Paintings

 Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) is arguably one of the greatest landscape artists of all time, and perhaps the most well-known British artist ever. His ability in capturing the effects of color and light gave rise to his nickname "The Painter of Light," and his approach to landscape art elevated the genre to rival history painting. Turner accurately captured architectural and natural details in his early works, but as he aged, his work became more fluid with mere suggestion of movement. Turner's paintings were considered  to be ahead of his time and were forerunners for the Impressionism movement. Below you can enjoy 10 of his most famous paintings.
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1. Rome, from Mount Aventine (Year: 1835)
This painting depicts Rome from the Aventine Hill, one of the Seven Hills on which Ancient Rome was built. Turner has created several paintings of Rome, and when this particular one was first exhibited it was described by the Morning Post as "one of those amazing pictures by which Mr. Turner dazzles the imagination and confounds all criticism: it is beyond praise". In December 2014, this painting was sold at Sotheby's in London for £30.3m - an auction record for a Turner painting. Furthermore, it was also the highest price paid for any pre-20th century painting by a British artist.
2. The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (Year: 1835)
On October 16th 1834, a devastating fire broke out in England's Houses of Parliament, leading to the biggest blaze in London since the Great Fire of 1666. Just like thousands of Londoners, Turner was there to witness the fire. He took some sketches of the scene, and he later used these to create two famous paintings of the accident (both with the same title). This painting is a captivating visual record of the event and is symbolic of nature's power over man.
3. Dido Building Carthage (Year: 1815)
Carthage was the capital city of the ancient Carthaginian civilization while Dido, according to ancient historic sources, was the founder and first queen of Carthage. In the year 1814, Turner started to paint a series on Carthaginian subjects and this one is its most famous. This painting was heavily inspired by Aeneid, an epic poem written by Virgil. It depicts the building of the North African city of Carthage with Dido being the blue and white figure that can be seen on the left. In his early works, Turner emulated the achievements of French artist Claude Lorrain, and this painting is a direct tribute to Claude's "Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba (1648)."
4. Venice, from the Porch of Madonna della Salute (Year: 1835)
Turner traveled around a lot in order to try to find inspiration for his work. He became inspired by Venice when he first visited in 1819. Turner's love affair with this beautiful Italian city produced a number of masterpieces, and this is his most famous one. This painting captures the Grand Canal along with some buildings of Venice; and it is based on some sketches that Turner made when in this city. Turner's command over marine painting, his talent as a colorist, and his undeniable ability to capture the effects of atmosphere and light, can all be seen in the wonderful artwork.
5. Norham Castle, Sunrise (Year: 1845)
Norham Castle can be found on the River Tweed on the border between Scotland and England. Turner made his first visit to Norham in 1797 and over the years, he painted this castle in several well-known pieces of art. This particular painting was created during the latter stages of his career when his compositions became more fluid with mere suggestion of movement. This painting is now considered to be one of Turner's greatest paintings of light and atmosphere. While some believe that the painting is unfinished, it is more widely viewed as proof of Turner's talent.
6. The Dort (Year: 1818)
Turner first visited the Netherlands in 1817. This painting shows a view of the harbor of Dordrecht, a city in the West of the Netherlands. This is the finest example of the influence of Dutch marine painting on Turner's work and a tribute to Dutch artist Aelbert Cuyp, one of Turner's informative influences. When it was first exhibited, it was hailed by the Morning Chronicle as "one of the most magnificent pictures ever exhibited," and Turner's contemporary, Romantic painter John Constable, called it the "most complete work of a genius I ever saw."
7. Hannibal Cross the Alps (Year: 1812)
Hannibal is considered to be one of the greatest military commanders to have ever existed. He led the Carthaginian army over the Alps and into Italy so that he could take the war directly to the Roman Republic. This crossing, which occurred in 218 BC, is one of the most celebrated military achievements in ancient warfare. As much as this painting captures this historic event, it also brings to the fore the destructive power of nature, a common theme in many of Turner's latter works.
8. The Slave Ship (Year: 1840)
During the 1781 Zong massacre, 133 African slaves were thrown overboard by the crew of the slave ship Zong. This was done to ensure the survival of the ship's remaining inhabitants as well as to cash in on the insurance on the slaves. This event is the inspiration behind this masterpiece, which was first exhibited on the same day as a meeting of the British Anti-Slavery Society. This painting shows a ship struggling in stormy seas while a number of dark-skinned bodies, with their hands and feet chained, are floating in the water. Once again, turner brilliantly uses color to create a dramatic effect for the viewer.
9. Rain, Steam and Speed (Year: 1844)
In this well-known artwork, Turner masterfully combines the industrial revolution with elements of nature. The painting shows a train approaching the viewer at high speed. The lashing rain blends into the steam from the train, leaving the powerful black engine of the locomotive as the only visibly sharp object on the canvas. The location in this painting is the Maidenhead Railway Bridge which crosses the River Thames. This painting is considered as a forerunner to Impressionism.
10. The Fighting Temeraire (Year: 1839)
HMS Temeraire was a 98-gun second-rate Royal Navy warship which is well-known for its heroic performance during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. This painting depicts the famous warship, years after the battle, being pulled along by a tugboat, to be broken into scraps. Turner uses symbolism, such as the setting sun, to suggest the demise of the subject and it's mortality despite its heroic past. This has become his most famous painting, and Turner referred to it as his "darling."
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