The Fighting Temeraire – A Painting by J M W Turner – Ongoing Change

J M W Turner is one of my favourite artists, if not my favourite. I just find that his work speaks of an eternal reality breaking through the shape and form of this world, uniting both in an earthly and unearthly oneness.

While in the National Gallery pondering on this painting “The Fighting Temeraire” I wrote this haiku about Turner’s work:

Behind shimmering form,
Eternal light
Dims the line

The painting depicts a wonderful portrayal of change. The sun is setting. Something is about to fade and fall away making room for the dawning of the new. Turner seems to be invoking a sense of loss, but also a profound hope that enables life to surge onward in to the future.

The Temeraire is a sailing ship and is being towed by a steam tug to her last resting place, portraying the transition from sail or wind, to steam. Notice the ghostly appearance of the Temeraire. She is already beginning to fade in to the past. But this said, aspects of her design embedded in the steam tug, go on in to the future. In a strange way the sailing ship gives birth to the steam ship reminding us that the past is always in some degree in the present and in the future. The three dimensions past, present and future are intricately connected.

The image clarifies for me, that any approach to life which denies the dimension of continuity, becomes an aberration. Nothing just simply falls out of the sky. Everything unfolds in to being with a story behind it, and that story is of immense importance in understanding it and it’s moving on in life, whether it be people, nature or inanimate things.

In a marvellous way this painting captures the very essence and ongoing flow of life.


About Don

I love life. Sometimes it makes sense, other times not. Discerning its underlying patterns and beauty always provides great reward and meaning and is a passion I ineptly follow. I feel deeply attached to nature and love the sea with its distinct moods and colour and find walking along its beaches wonderfully inspiring. Writing, sketching and photography is a sheer joy for me and the blog is one of the places I am able to express these pursuits.
This entry was posted in Art, Paintings J M W Turner and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Fighting Temeraire – A Painting by J M W Turner – Ongoing Change

  1. That’s one of our favourites too. Mr S is a huge fan as are you. I enjoyed your interpretation of this painting. 🙂


  2. This picture is now always associated with the new young ‘Q’ for me since appearing in the Bond film


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