Artists pour out their souls on canvas and other media, yet it’s always difficult to capture that process in reverse. How does one create a film about a painter when the subject’s work should already speak for itself? Dramatic events like slicing off an ear or running away to Tahiti make it easier to create narrative arcs in a biopic. But what of the painter J.M.W. Turner, whose life appears to have been more of an arc than a bridge? The images of the acclaimed landscape oil painter and watercolorist — certainly one of Great Britain’s most magnificent artists ever — were controversial in his time (1775-1851) but are now generally recognized as precursors of Impressionism and even Abstract Expressionism.
Writer/director Mike Leigh and actor Timothy Spall work together to show us the artist in his times. Mr. Turner exudes period detail, due in great measure to
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