Art: Light and Mystery

The genius of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), greatest of English painters, is one of those Himalayas of art whose height seems to increase with distance. Students of Romantic painting have found Turner's shadow longer than that of his French contemporaries (Gericault, Delacroix), longer than that of the Impressionists, whom he anticipated, and somewhere above such abstractionists as Redon, Kandinsky and Klee. John Ruskin spent most of his days interpreting Turner's art. But Turner's life has remained muddied by the fictions of his first biographer, a prolific hack named George Walter Thornbury.

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