First Half of 19th Century
English Romanticism – Turner Discovers the Effects of Light
Where do we come from, how was life born on earth? Charles Darwin finds an answer to this question key to mankind during his voyage of nearly five years by ship in the 19th century— an answer that will change the prevailing beliefs about life. He discovers that species are adapting to their environment and are becoming increasingly complex. Darwin’s modern theory of evolution thus contradicts the theory of creation, according to which God created all beings in their present form and man in his image, and marks the beginning of a new worldview. The painter William Turner is living at the same time in England. Like Darwin, he believes it is time to break through to new ways of thinking and turn towards nature. The two men met in London’s elite club “Athenaeum”.
Romanticism has its origins in English literature, which rejects the Rationalism of the Enlightenment and devotes itself to nature and the world of emotions. Landscapes as untouched and remote sceneries hold the attention of poets like Blake and Wordsworth. They also influence the painters who find their new focus in landscape motifs and seascapes, and experiment with color effects. The most famous English Romantic artist is William Turner, the “inventor of the atmospheric landscape”. In his work, color begins to emancipate itself from form. Contours dissolve, surfaces blur and form another dimension. Relief-like colors override form, yet leave room for detailed scenes. Long before the Impressionists, the artist focused on conveying the effect of his motifs under certain lighting conditions. Turner is a pioneer of art, just as his contemporary Darwin is a pioneer of science.