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Bodies, Wrecks and Relics: Turner’s ‘Trafalgar’ paintings

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Dear all, we are absolutely delighted to welcome another distinguished academic and curator to this week’s History of Art Graduate Seminar. Please find the abstract for the talk below. Christine Riding is Curator of the Queen’s House and Head of Arts at the Royal Museums, Greenwich and was previously Curator of Eighteenth and Nineteenth century British Art at Tate Britain, as well as Deputy Editor of Art History (The Journal of the Association of Art Historians). She has curated major exhibitions such as Turner and the Sea at the National Maritime Museum last year and many others during her time at Tate. She has also been responsible for innovative research projects such as Tate’s online research publication: The Art of the Sublime ( ). Do join us this Wednesday 25 February at 5pm at 4a Trumpington Street (above Hot Numbers). All welcome, snacks and drinks afterwards as always! x

Bodies, Wrecks and Relics: Turner’s ‘Trafalgar’ paintings

Christine Riding Head of Arts and Curator of the Queen’s House, Royal Museums Greenwich

Battle painting was an established and distinct branch of marine art and yet, despite the extended period of conflict represented by the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), it was to feature very little in Turner’s work. If the depiction of actual battle scenes was of limited artistic interest, in contrast, Turner’s engagement with the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) in particular, and the navy more generally, was wide-ranging and profound. It was a subject that he returned to repeatedly in exhibited paintings and watercolours, and in designs for numerous print projects. Above all, his interest in the subject is signposted by three major works that span more than thirty years: The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizen Starboard Shrouds of the ‘Victory’ (1806–08), The Battle of Trafalgar (1823–24) and The Fighting ‘ Temeraire’ (1839) – Turner’s ‘Trafalgar’ paintings. This paper will explore the various historical and artistic contexts within which these works were created, the continuities and contrasts between the representations, and finally propose how the three paintings could be read (and perhaps were conceived) as a quasi-religious triptych.


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