The Sunshine Boy

A vast new show illuminates J.M.W. Turner, the man who took British painting into the light

Private Collection

Turner's Caernarvon Castle , circa 1799, is filled with Romantic melancholy.

There's always something too good to be true about famous last words. Did Oscar Wilde really say, "Either that wallpaper goes or I do"? I certainly hope so, but still. So we should be careful with the claim that in his last recorded utterance, a few weeks before he died, the English painter J.M.W. Turner, the man who whipped up force fields of light, who could make light obliterate almost everything it fell on and then make it spell out everything else, turned to somebody and said, "The sun is God."

If he didn't say that, he certainly should have. Turner...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!