Yacht Approaching the Coast

7:00 AM

J.M.W Turner, Yacht Approaching the Coast, 1845

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies:
And all that’s the best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies

         “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron

William Turner, the “painter of light,” started painting Yacht Approaching the Coast the same year as he completed his most famous work, the Slave Ship. He completed the work just six years before his death, so it does not look like the classic English landscape painting that his earlier paintings appeared to be. Like his later works, Yacht contains unrecognizable figures. Some described his later works as “fantastic puzzles” of color and light. In Yacht he plays with yellows and oranges as well as light and reflection in the water. While the painting appears happy, most of his later works came from a depressed place as his father, and former studio aid, died. His father’s death made a profound impact on his later works. His grief can be seen through his use of light, because the significance of the light was his way of viewing G-d’s spirit and heaven. While many works focus on ships or shipwrecks, when I look at Yacht, I am immediately drawn to the bright light. Even when I try to look at other parts of the painting, I am drawn back to the center of the light. It engulfs me and makes me feel warm and light.

Lord Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” caught my eye because it describes lightness and darkness, which Turner plays with in his works, as well as, the “tender light which heaven to gaudy day denies” which made me think of the light as G-d’s spirit as Turner had. Also, I found the painting to be pleasant and I felt similarly when reading the poem. They both made me feel warm and calm.

I also enjoy the painting on its own. I like the playfulness of the light and reflection, but it also feels a little violent with the dark ships on bottom. I think of  Yacht is when I am driving and I see an extremely bright sunset, but there is a cloud just blocking the sun from burning my eyes and instead the light shines in every other direction. I feel that Turner painted the sun so we are not directly his by the wonderful sunlight, but it is spread throughout nature and the rest of the painting. Going back to the idea that the light is G-d’s spirit, once way to view the light in this painting is that the viewer will not be touched by G-d’s spirit but the water and the rest of nature in the painting will and that G-d is working to spread himself in all directions. Another way to view it is that the cloud is blocking the sun from its full brightness and so we cannot get close enough to G-d’s spirit until we ascend to heaven.

When this project was assigned, I knew that I was going to write about Turner, because I like his color palette and style. Everything morphs together and things can be viewed in so many different ways. I enjoy looking and trying to piece together his “fantastic puzzles."

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