Turner and the Masters (Tate Britain)

First published on The Bubble (June 2011).
ovid banished
Ovid Banished from Rome (1838)

There is a tiny portrait of J. M. W. Turner at the very end of the Tate Britain’s Turner and the Masters. It is by Charles West Cope and shows us Turner in 1837 when he was fifty-two years old: a hunched, somewhat scruffy man in his trademark stovepipe hat stands, as he was wont to do, on a platform barely an inch from the canvas whilst awed hangers-on stand at a respectful distance from this son of a barber and a mentally unstable mother. This is a man whom we can well believe never lost his cockney accent. It is also not the picture he would have wished you to remember.

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