The British director Mike Leigh is to create a film based on the life of the English painter JMW (Joseph Mallord William) Turner. Leigh favourite, Timothy Spall has been cast in the lead role of the artist, who died aged 76 in 1851. Spall has been cast in a number of Leigh directed films in the past, including Secrets & Lies, Life is Sweet, All or Nothing and Topsy-Turvy, his 1999 Oscar nominated film about Gilbert and Sullivan.
“Turner as a character is compelling,” said Leigh. “I want to explore the man, his working life, his relationships and how he lived. “But what fascinates me most is the drama that lies in the tension between this driven eccentric and the epic, timeless world he evoked in his masterpieces.” Turner exhibitions continue to attract large audiences, while his works are mainstays in the UK’s leading galleries.
Turner is perhaps the best-loved English Romantic artist. He became known as ‘the painter of light’, because of his increasing interest in brilliant colours as the main constituent in his landscapes and seascapes. His works include water colours, oils and engravings. He was born near Covent Garden in London and entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1789. His earliest works form part of the 18th-century topographical tradition. He was soon inspired by 17th-century Dutch artists such as Willem van der Velde, and by the Italianate landscapes of Claude and Richard Wilson.
He exhibited watercolours at the Royal Academy from 1790, and oils from 1796. In 1840 he met the critic John Ruskin, who became the great champion of his work. Turner became interested in contemporary technology, as can be seen from ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ and ‘Rain, Steam and Speed’. At the time his free, expressive treatment of these subjects was criticised, but it is now widely appreciated.