C: Timothy Spall (J. M. W. Turner), Paul Jesson (William Turner, Sr.), Dorothy Atkinson (Hannah Danby), Marion Bailey Mr. Booth), Ruth Sheen (Sarah Danby), Sandy Foster (Evelina Dupuis), Amy Dawson (Georgiana Thompson), Lesley Manville (Mary Somerville), Martin Savage (Benjamin Robert Haydon), Richard Bremmer (George Jones), Niall Buggy (John Carew), Fred Pearson (Sir William Beechey), Tom Edden (C. R. Leslie), Jamie Thomas King (David Roberts), Mark Stanley (Clarkson Stanfield), Nicholas Jones (Sir John Soane), Clive Francis (Sir Martin Archer Shee), Robert Portal (Sir Charles Eastlake), Simon Chandler (Sir Augustus Wall Callcott), Edward de Souza (Thomas Stothard), James Fleet (John Constable), Patrick Godfrey (Lord Egremont), Nicola Sloane (brothel keeper), Kate O'Flynn (prostitute), John Ruskin (Joshua McGuire), Stuart McQuarrie (Ruskin's father), Sylvestra Le Touzel (Ruskin's mother), Eleanor Yates (Ruskin's wife), David Horovitch (Dr. Price), Leo Bill (J. J. E. Mayall), James Dryden (Cornelius), Sinéad Matthews (Queen Victoria), Peter Wight (Joseph Gillott).
Technical specs from the IMDb: - Color - 2.35:1 - Cameras: Arri Alexa Plus, Cooke Speed Panchro Lenses; Canon EOS C500, Cooke Speed Panchro Lenses - source format: Codex - Cinematographic Process: ARRIRAW, Canon Cinema RAW - release format: Digital (Digital Cinema Package DCP). 150 min
2K DCP viewed at b-ware! ladenkino (Gärtnerstrasse 19, Friedrichshain, U-Bhf Samariterstrasse, Berlin), OmU = Original mit Untertiteln = original version with German subtitles, 29 Dec 2014
Mike Leigh: Director’s Statement:
Back at the turn of the century, when ‘Topsy-Turvy’ was released, I wrote that it was “a film about all of us who suffer and strain to make other people laugh.”
Now I have again turned the camera round on ourselves, we who try to be artists, with all the struggles our calling demands. But making people laugh, hard as it is, is one thing; moving them to experience the profound, the sublime, the spiritual, the epic beauty and the terrifying drama of what it means to be alive on our planet – well, that’s altogether something else, and few of us ever achieve it, much as we may try.
Turner achieved all of it, of course. He was a giant among artists, single-minded and uncompromising, extraordinarily prolific, revolutionary in his approach, consummate at his craft, clairvoyant in his vision.
Yet Turner the man was eccentric, anarchic, vulnerable, imperfect, erratic and sometimes uncouth. He could be selfish and disingenuous, mean yet generous, and he was capable of great passion and poetry.
Mr. Turner is about the tensions and contrasts between this very mortal man and his timeless work, between his fragility and his strength. It is also an attempt to evoke the dramatic changes in his world over the last quarter century of his life.
Mike Leigh (from the production notes)
Synopsis (from the production notes):
MR. TURNER explores the last quarter century of the life of J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), the single-minded artist who worked hard and travelled extensively.
Turner is profoundly affected by the death of his ex-barber father, he takes up with a widow, Mrs Booth, a seaside landlady, and is plagued occasionally by an ex-lover, Sarah Danby, by whom he has two illegitimate adult daughters, whose existence he invariably denies.
He enjoys the hospitality of the landed aristocracy, he visits a brothel, he is fascinated by science, photography and railways, he is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, and he has himself tied to the mast of a ship in bad weather in order to paint a snowstorm.
He is celebrated by some, and reviled by others. He refuses an offer of £100,000 from a millionaire who wants to buy all his work, preferring to bequeath it to the British nation, whereas Queen Victoria loathes his work.
Throughout the story he is loved by his stoical housekeeper, Hannah, whom he takes for granted and whom he occasionally exploits sexually.
Eventually, he leads a double existence, living incognito with Mrs Booth in Chelsea, where he dies. Hannah is unaware of this until the very end. (Synopsis from the production notes).
AA: Mr. Turner is one of the best films of Mike Leigh and one of the best films on painting, ranking with: - Lust for Life (Vincente Minnelli / Van Gogh) - Montparnasse 19 / Les Amants de Montparnasse (Jacques Becker / Amedeo Modigliani) - Le Mystère Picasso (Henri-Georges Clouzot) - Andrei Rublyov (Andrei Tarkovsky) - The Agony and the Ecstasy (Carol Reed / Michelangelo) - Painters Painting (Emile de Antonio) - and Basquiat (Julian Schnabel) - not forgetting the unique documentaries by Luciano Emmer and Alain Resnais.
Mr. Turner is a turning-point and landmark in digital cinematography.
It is a magical film about the passion and devotion to painting. It focuses on the essential: the sorcery of light and colour and how Turner was ahead of his time or timeless, already in tune with what was later to emerge in impressionism, abstract painting, and action painting.
Turner was irresponsible in his human relations and uncompromising in his art.
Digital cinematography has justifiedly been celebrated for its brightness and sharpness. The Turner aesthetics is a most perfect imaginable opposite to that.
But the cinematographer Dick Pope, in close collaboration with Mike Leigh, has managed a lot in reproducting a genuine Turnerian softness, fogginess, and cloudiness, and the warm colour palette of Turner. I had been wondering what someone with the actual Turner paintings in fresh memory would say, and I happened to meet Mr. Anders Carpelan who in London had seen Mr. Turner and the next day visited The Late Turner exhibition at Tate Gallery, and in his opinion the colour world of the film was spot on.
It has so far been difficult for digital to capture the warm authenticity of the colours of nature. Cold harshness and ultra bright have been typical digital colour worlds. There have been exceptions from the start, but now Mr. Turner is a high profile demonstration of digital achieving very well what has mostly been a privilege of photochemical film, including fog, clouds, and hazy contours. Having said this, I also add that the interiors are better than the exteriors, and some of the nature exteriors are slightly underwhelming. The red may be a touch too sweet (at least in this screening).
The vignette style of the movie is successful. Many (all?) scenes are based on well-known incidents and anecdotes. I was impressed by - Turner being tied to the mast during a thunderstorm - the sublime of the nature - the red blot transforming into a life-buoy - the action painting - Aphrodite the love goddess - Mr. Booth's story of the slave ship - witnessing the Temeraire - Turner as an awful lecturer on perspective - the old Turner being reviled by his contemporaries - the demonstration of the magnetic properties of violet light - the camera obscura - the Daguerrotypes - Turner turning down the offer of the millionaire and bequeathing his legacy to the British nation - laughing at the Pre-Rafaelites.
The sense of the epoch is engaging.
The Fighting Temeraire sequence evokes the latest James Bond film Skyfall where Bond visits National Gallery to see Turner's painting. It is about the domination of the sea and the transience of everything.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION FROM THE PRESSBOOK AFTER THE JUMP BREAK
BACKGROUND INFORMATION FROM THE PRESSBOOK AFTER THE JUMP BREAK
LONG SYNOPSIS (from the production notes)
The action of MR. TURNER takes place over the last quarter century of the artist’s life, ending with his death in 1851.
The film being a dramatic reflection, rather than a documentary, Mike Leigh has chosen to let the action flow from one period of time to another, without interrupting it with labels, or identifying specific months and years.
Design, costume and particularly make-up help to underpin and define this progression, and in the case of Turner’s housekeeper Hannah Danby, it is probably useful to mention that what we gather from research about her deteriorating skin condition has led us to decide that it was psoriasis.
Regarding Turner’s trips to Margate and why he goes there in the first place, the town made an early impression on him. As he tells Mr and Mrs Booth, he attended school there for a couple of years, but we also know that he was much taken with the quality of light in Thanet, the part of Kent where Margate sits.
Returning from his continental travels, Turner comes home to his doting ex-barber father, William Turner Senior, and to his housekeeper, Hannah Danby, who loves him, and whom he takes for granted, and occasionally exploits sexually. They both share the worry that Turner might have been involved in a bomb blast in Ostend, but he assures them he was elsewhere.
After William Senior has organized the purchase of paints and materials for his son, sorted out some new canvases, shaved Turner and eaten with him, he shows particular customers round their private gallery, an activity the painter views through a secret hole.
Another day. They receive a visitation from the aggressive and resentful Sarah Danby, Turner’s ex-lover, and the mother of his adult illegitimate daughters, Evelina and Georgiana, who accompany her. Evelina presents Turner with his new-born granddaughter. Mrs Danby grumbles at Turner’s neglect of her family. We learn that she is Hannah’s aunt.
Now Turner retreats by horse coach to the country estate of the generous Lord Egremont, where he paints and draws, communes with other artists, sings Purcell badly, lends money to an errant and erratic artist Haydon, and sketches a musical evening.
He travels on by steamer to Margate, where he finds convivial sea-facing lodgings with a Mr and Mrs Booth. After a coastal walk, he spends an evening with them, during which he reveals his schooldays in the town, and laments with them the pain of slavery and the loss of dear ones. Preferring to conceal his identity, he assumes the name Mallard.
Back in London, he is visited by the Scottish scientist Mary Somerville. She demonstrates to Turner in his studio the magnetic properties of violet light. He is fascinated, and she is much taken with his paintings.
During one of Turner’s well-attended but badly-delivered public lectures on perspective, William Senior suffers a serious coughing attack.
Subsequently, the old man’s condition quickly deteriorates, and in the presence of his bereft son and housekeeper, he dies. His last words with Turner concern the mentally unstable state of the artist’s long-deceased mother. It is apparent that neither man had much affection for her.
In grief, Turner goes fishing, and visits a brothel, where he draws a young prostitute, and breaks down in tears. At home he paints ‘Death on a Pale Horse’, and has sexual intercourse with Hannah, taking her from behind as she selects a book from a bookcase.
Now Turner roves the untamed countryside. In a remote coastal place, where a tiny ancient chapel perches on a clifftop, wild horses follow him over the horizon.
Returning to Margate, he discovers that Mrs Booth is now a widow. He offers his condolences. Then, much to his amusement, she enquires whether he is still making his “nice little pictures”.
Back in London, he displays a cold disregard for Hannah, ignoring her enquiries as to his trip. Since the old man’s death, she has taken over the running of Turner’s studio, and she now lists the latest delivery of his art materials.
Varnishing Day at the Royal Academy, when the painters (all men) put the finishing touches to their work, now hung in position for the Annual Exhibition.
Turner scuttles about, enjoying friendly banter with various colleagues. He shares a taciturn exchange with John Constable, whose ‘Opening of Waterloo Bridge’, all bright reds and scarlets, has been hung next to Turner’s predominantly grey seascape, ‘Helvoetsluys’. For a jape, Turner paints a startling red blob slap in the middle of his piece, and after a few minutes’ consideration by all present, culminating in Constable’s leaving in a huff, Turner returns to convert the red blob into a life-buoy. Much amusement all round.
On this same occasion, Haydon, who owes Turner £50, throws a public tantrum because his painting (of a donkey) has been hung in the ante-room. He is resentful of never having been elected to the Academy.
Finally Turner goes to work energetically to finish another of his paintings, ‘Staffa, Fingal’s Cave’. A large group of artists gather round and watch, fascinated, as he ostentatiously paints, smudges, smears and spits at his canvas, and blows a strange brown powder onto it.
A mountain, a valley, a rugged rock formation, a dramatic sky. Turner is out and about in the wild.
Returning to Mrs Booth at Margate, he now becomes intimate with her, to which she reciprocates tenderly, and she takes him to bed. In the morning, he leaves as the sun rises over the sea.
Turner has himself tied firmly to the mast of a ship, so that he can experience the full force of a snow storm. Having thus exposed himself to the elements, he contracts bronchitis. He is now staying with Mrs Booth, and her local physician, Dr Price, prescribes for “Mr Mallard”, “the three B’s: bed, balsam, and broth – to be administered in this case by the fourth B, the admirable Mrs Booth.”
Back in his London studio, Turner leaves off painting his ‘Snow Storm – Steam-boat off a Harbour’s Mouth’ to attend to potential customers in his gallery. These are the young John Ruskin and his father, who are pondering buying Turner’s painting ‘Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying – Typhoon coming on’.
Time passes. By now, both Turner and Hannah are becoming older and greyer, and Hannah’s skin condition is getting worse. Meanwhile, Turner is enjoying his secret other life with Mrs Booth at Margate. They walk out, arm in arm, taking the sea air; he sketches, she shops and sweeps; he goes out for long working trips.
And one day, as they are out strolling, Turner collapses.
In Mrs Booth’s house, Dr Price examines the artist in bed, in Mrs Booth’s presence. Warning “Mr Mallard” not to work too hard, the physician asks Turner to remind him what is his profession. He begs to differ with Turner’s claim to be a lawyer, and reveals that he knows who he is, and that he is honoured to meet him.
Turner and Mrs Booth are horrified, but the doctor assures them of his discretion, and informs Turner that he is suffering from a heart condition, and that he had better take it easy.
Back in his London house, he is castigated by Sarah Danby and Evelina for having failed to be present at the funeral of the other daughter, Georgiana. To his mumbling that he was out of town, Sarah sneers, “As ever, sir, painting your ridiculous shipwrecks.”
The steamer takes Turner back to Margate, where, one evening in bed, as they prepare for sleep, Mrs Booth shares with Turner her plan to sell up and lease a house for them by his “beloved River Thames, not too far from London Town.”
One day, on the river, Turner is swigging beer in a rowing barge, in the convivial company of the painters Clarkson Stanfield and David Roberts.
Suddenly, they encounter the great old ship, ‘The Fighting Temeraire’, which is being towed by a little steam tug to its final resting place, the breaker’s yard. The painters reflect on the history and fate of this famous naval veteran of the Battle of Trafalgar. But Turner exhorts the others to celebrate the modern age of steam, rather than lament the passing of the old world. Stanfield suggests that Turner should paint this scene, and Turner wryly promises to ponder the notion.
And indeed, back in his London studio, that is precisely what he does. He is working intensively on what will, of course, become his most famous painting, when Hannah informs him that he has a visitor, Haydon.
Haydon offers Turner £10 towards his £50 debt. Turner learns that the impoverished and embittered Haydon and his wife have lost several children. He cancels the debt, and has Hannah escort the protesting Haydon off the premises.
In the company of the military painter George Jones, Turner visits the Ruskins, who now proudly possess ‘Slavers’, which hangs in the hall of their house. After supper, Turner and Jones, together with Stanfield and Roberts, sit in the Ruskins’ drawing room with their host, his wife, and their precocious and opinionated young son, John. The conversation takes in gooseberries and seascape painting, with particular reference to a comparison between Turner’s work and that of Claude Lorrain (1600-1682). Mr and Mrs Ruskin indulge their son’s outspoken opinions, and Turner gently sends him up.
In the countryside, Turner is inspired by coming upon a state-of-the-art railway engine, hauling its carriages, and back in his London studio he paints his ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed’. Hannah surveys this piece somewhat blankly.
We are now in the Victorian Age. Four short scenes depict philistine attitudes towards Turner’s increasingly radical and more abstract-looking work.
Queen Victoria pays a private visit to the Royal Academy with Prince Albert. Seeing two of Turner’s paintings, they express horror and disgust. Turner overhears them, and slinks away.
Two other occasions in art galleries, in Turner’s absence.......
Three gentlemen scoff at a Turner, and two ladies sarcastically compare his work with varied kinds of food.
Finally, Turner visits a popular London theatre, where the audience whoops with delight at a comic sketch depicting an art dealer selling to a wealthy collector a canvas on which jam tarts have been accidentally spilled. Told that the piece is a Turner, the collector cheerfully pays the dealer a thousand pounds. The audience finds this hilarious, and Turner leaves, mortified.
More time goes by. Turner, drunk at a fashionable society dinner, connects with John Ruskin’s new young wife.
Early morning at his London home. Turner is asleep on his bed, fully clothed in his day wear. Waking him with a cup of tea, Hannah enquires when she can next expect him. His evasive reply provokes her to observe that it’s now not worth her changing the sheets on his bed. He can’t reply, and goes, leaving her alone and forlorn.
Turner and Mrs Booth are now happily domiciled in their riverside house in Chelsea.
Turner visits the London studio of J. J. E. Mayall, a young photographer and maker of daguerreotypes. Turner is fascinated by the camera and the technology, but expresses concern at the implication of this new art.
In Chelsea, he shows Mrs Booth his daguerreotype portrait, and informs her, to her horror, that he has arranged for the two of them to be photographed together in a few days. Although she flatly refuses to go, we soon find her there, side by side with Turner. She is terrified. As Mayall takes their picture, he talks of having photographed the Niagara Falls. Turner reflects ruefully that there will soon come a time when photography will replace painting.
In Turner’s gallery, he refuses an offer of £100,000 from Joseph Gillott, the pen nib manufacturing millionaire. Gillott wants to buy Turner’s entire oeuvre, but Turner has bequeathed all his work to the British Nation, “to be seen all together, in one place, gratis.” Calling this perverse, the baffled magnate is reluctantly escorted off the premises by the ageing Hannah.
Turner is now entering his dotage. He falls over, but won’t let Mrs Booth fuss over him, he paints while she cleans his brushes, and he recites for her a bawdy poem of his own.
He visits the Royal Academy and chortles dismissively at the Pre-Raphaelites, and one day, when visiting his London house, he absent-mindedly confuses two coats, putting on one instead of the other, which he has just taken off.
Arriving back to Mrs Booth, Turner is, with some difficulty, describing his visit that day to Hyde Park to look at the construction of Crystal Palace. Suddenly, he has a heart attack.
Meanwhile, Hannah finds Turner’s discarded jacket, which has been soiled by one of her cats. A letter she finds in one of the pockets is addressed to him at his Chelsea house, the existence of which she is, of course, entirely ignorant.
Dr Price has travelled up from Margate by the new railway. Examining the now bed-ridden Turner, he warns him that his days are numbered. The patient invites the doctor to take a large sherry and reassess his diagnosis. At Dr Price’s refusal to do this, Turner reflects that he is now to become a nonentity, a notion the doctor rejects.
At the front door, Dr Price takes his leave of Mrs Booth. As he walks away, he passes Hannah, who, severely shrouded to conceal her scarred face, has come with a woman friend to find Turner’s house.
She does so, and is extremely distressed. The next-door neighbour confirms that an ailing elderly gentleman does indeed live there “with his good lady wife”, and Hannah leaves, distraught.
In and out of delirium, Turner, much though Mrs Booth tries to stop him, insists on going outside in his bed-shirt to sketch the corpse of a young woman the police have recovered from the river. Turner collapses, and Mrs Booth helps him back into the house and upstairs.
Turner is now on his death bed. Mrs Booth and Dr Price sit with him. Suddenly he mumbles something to Mrs Booth. It is “me damsel”, his name for Hannah.
Then he declares, “The sun is God!”, laughs briefly, and dies.
The doctor checks his pulse and closes his eyes. Mrs Booth buries her face in Turner’s arm.
We now see an image of Turner standing, drawing, silhouetted against the enormous setting sun.
Mrs Booth is vigorously cleaning her window. She is wearing black. She stops for a few moments, and thinks about Turner. She is wistful, sad, gently amused, proud. She resumes her task.
Hannah rattles around in the now decaying, cluttered, dusty gallery and studio, muttering, weeping, sad and lonely.
CHARACTER NOTES (from the pressbook)
J.M.W. TURNER: Timothy Spall
Boats, ships, the river and the sea defined Turner’s earliest experience. Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was born and raised by the busy River Thames in Central London. He was sent at the age of 10 to stay with relatives at Brentford, also on the Thames, and then went away to school on the Kent coast at Margate, where he loved the light and to which he returned frequently throughout his life. His father sold the boy’s work in his barber shop, and he was accepted at the Royal Academy Schools at 14, his interview panel being chaired by Sir Joshua Reynolds, who encouraged him. He worked for several architects, expecting at first to follow that line, and at 15 exhibited his first watercolour at the Royal Academy, ‘A View of the Archbishop’s Palace at Lambeth’. He was elected an Associate Member of the Academy at 24 and a full Academician at 27. The Academy dominated the rest of his life and he was Professor of Perspective for thirty years. Throughout his life, Turner travelled widely in the British Isles and in Europe, including to Venice, which greatly inspired him. Celebrated by many, reviled by some, his output was prodigious. Twenty thousand of his pieces are in the Tate collection alone. Turner never married, but co-habited with Sarah Danby, the mother of his illegitimate daughters, and later with Sophia Booth in Margate and Chelsea. Hannah Danby was his housekeeper for over forty years. He is buried in St Paul’s Cathedral next to Sir Joshua Reynolds.
WILLIAM TURNER SENIOR: Paul Jesson
William Turner (1745-1829), wig-maker and barber, a native of Devon, came to London and set up shop in Covent Garden. His wife ended her days in a lunatic asylum. Two children: the painter and his younger sister, who died aged five. On retirement served as Turner’s assistant.
HANNAH DANBY: Dorothy Atkinson
A niece of Sarah Danby (see below), Hannah Danby (1786-1853) was Turner’s faithful housekeeper for over forty years. She died two years after Turner.
SOPHIA BOOTH: Marion Bailey
Sophia Booth (1798-1875) was Turner’s landlady in Margate, and then his mistress and companion from the mid-1830s. Twice widowed, she had a son by her first marriage. She eventually sold her Margate boarding house and moved with Turner to Chelsea.
JOHN BOOTH: Karl Johnson
A mariner, he married Sophia about 1825, probably at Dover. Their Margate boarding house commanded great sea views.
SARAH DANBY: Ruth Sheen
Sarah Danby (1760/1766-1861) was Turner’s first mistress, and the mother of his two illegitimate daughters. As the widow of an organist and composer, she received a monthly pension from the Royal Society of Musicians, which she collected from an office in Leicester Fields (now Leicester Square).
EVELINA DUPUIS: Sandy Foster
Evelina Dupuis (1801-1874) was the elder illegitimate daughter of Sarah Danby and Turner. Her first three children died in infancy, baby Rosalie Adelaide thus being Turner’s “only surviving grandchild”, although two others came later.
GEORGIANA THOMPSON: Amy Dawson
Georgiana Thompson (1811-1843) was Sarah Danby and Turner’s second illegitimate daughter. She died in childbirth, having married three years earlier.
MARY SOMERVILLE: Lesley Manville
A Scotswoman, Mary Somerville (1780-1872) was a self-taught mathematician. The daughter of a Vice Admiral, she was widowed with two sons at 27. This liberated her to study, both her father and her husband having banned her from doing so. Her more enlightened second husband, an army doctor, was physician to the Royal Chelsea Hospital for Veterans. They had two daughters, and Mary embarked on a long life of study and educational causes. Her first publication concerned the magnetising power of sunlight. Her experiments with the needle and the spectrum led her to deduce that the violet element had magnetising properties, a conclusion she later realised was incorrect. But its publication had established her reputation. In later life she was an ardent supporter of women’s suffrage. Somerville College, Oxford, is named after her.
BENJAMIN ROBERT HAYDON: Martin Savage
Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846), a native of Plymouth, eschewed portrait painting, which was commercial, aspiring instead to paint edifying historical and biblical subjects, which weren’t. Truculent, contentious, emotional, perpetually impecunious, he was prone to alienating most people, not least in the Royal Academy, to which he never succeeded in being elected. He and his wife suffered several infant mortalities. He committed suicide. (See ‘Punch’, or ‘May Day’, Tate Britain.)
GEORGE JONES: Richard Bremmer
George Jones (1786-1869), Royal Academician, painter and army officer. After the RA schools, he enlisted, fought in the Peninsular War, and was an officer in the occupation of Paris in 1815. Said to resemble the Duke of Wellington, a comparison he relished, he painted battle scenes, and was later Librarian and Acting President of the RA. A close friend of Turner and an executor of his will. (See ‘Turner’s Body Lying in State, 29 December 1851’, Tate Britain.)
JOHN CAREW: Niall Buggy
John Edward Carew (1785-1868), Irish sculptor. Lord Egremont of Petworth being his main patron, Carew moved early to Brighton, using Petworth’s chapel as his studio. He exhibited at the RA, but was never elected a member. The south-facing relief at the bottom of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square is his work.
SIR WILLIAM BEECHEY: Fred Pearson
Sir William Beechey (1753-1839), from Oxfordshire. Royal portrait painter, much admired by George III and Queen Charlotte.
C.R. LESLIE: Tom Edden
Charles Robert Leslie (1794-1859). Originally English, he spent his formative years in Philadelphia. Returned to RA Schools in London, becoming a successful painter. A close friend of both Turner and Constable. His ‘memoirs’ have been a useful research resource for the film.
DAVID ROBERTS: Jamie Thomas King
David Roberts (1796-1864), Scottish landscape painter and Royal Academician. Began by painting theatre sets with Clarkson Stanfield (see below), with whom he became close friends, moving to London with him. Roberts was the first British artist to travel extensively in Spain, Egypt and the Holy Land. (See ‘Ronda, Spain’, Tate Britain.)
CLARKSON STANFIELD: Mark Stanley
Clarkson Stanfield (1793-1867), from Sunderland, son of an actor. Marine painter. Ran away to sea, was pressed into the Royal Navy and served under Jane Austen’s brother. After theatrical scene-painting, moved to London with Roberts. Royal Academician. A great admirer of Turner. (See ‘View on the Scheldt’, V&A Museum.)
SIR JOHN SOANE: Nicholas Jones
Sir John Soane (1753-1837), architect, Royal Academician. From Reading, the son of a bricklayer. Designed the Bank of England. Intimate friend of Turner. (See Sir John Soane’s Museum, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London.)
SIR MARTIN ARCHER SHEE: Clive Francis
Sir Martin Archer Shee (1769-1850), a Dubliner. Portrait painter. Elected to the Royal Academy, due more to his political than his artistic skills. President for many years, defending the Academy against a hostile Parliamentary enquiry. Escorted the young Queen Victoria during her private view of the Summer Exhibition in 1845.
SIR CHARLES EASTLAKE: Robert Portal
Sir Charles Eastlake (1793-1865), from Plymouth, the son of a judge. Taught by Haydon. At 22, painted a very successful portrait of the captured Napoleon on board HMS Bellerophon. This was sold for one thousand guineas, enabling him to travel to Italy, where he remained for fourteen years. Turner stayed with him in Rome and painted in his studio. Royal Academician, Secretary of the Fine Art Commission, tasked with the decoration of the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. President of the RA. First Director of the new National Gallery.
SIR AUGUSTUS WALL CALLCOTT: Simon Chandler
Sir Augustus Wall Callcott (1779-1844), landscape painter and Royal Academician. Close friend of Turner. A consummate courtier and Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures.
THOMAS STOTHARD: Edward de Souza
Thomas Stothard (1755-1834), Londoner, son of an innkeeper. Royal Academician, sitting on the Governing Council and teaching in the RA Schools, where he had studied. RA Librarian for over twenty years. A great admirer of Turner, Stothard regularly attended his Perspective Lectures with his ear trumpet.
JOHNCONSTABLE: James Fleet
John Constable (1776-1837). England’s other great landscape painter, some suggest. From Suffolk, his area of which became known as ‘Constable Country’ during his lifetime. Elected to the RA late. Not close to Turner, once famously describing him as “uncouth, but has a wonderful range of mind”. (See ‘The Hay Wain’, National Gallery, London.)
LORD EGREMONT: Patrick Godfrey
George O’Brien Wyndham, third Earl of Egremont (1751-1837), was a major patron of contemporary British art and an agriculturalist. He encouraged artists to visit his Sussex estate at Petworth to study the fine collection of Old Master paintings and derive inspiration from the gardens and parkland. Turner was a regular visitor and produced many evocative drawings and watercolours of life at Petworth. Among the many works Egremont purchased or commissioned from Turner are the four paintings depicting various schemes or landscapes associated with the Earl, including the Brighton Chain Pier and Chichester Canal which still hang in the magnificent Carved Room at Petworth House.
JOHN RUSKIN: Joshua McGuire
John Ruskin (1819-1900). Art critic, artist and social commentator. From London, only son of a sherry importer and his evangelical Anglican wife. The intellectual and emotional product of contrasting parents. Educated at home, was isolated and intense. Family often travelled abroad, taking in architecture and art. At 27, defended Turner against harsh critics, and later wrote a full defence of Turner’s art in his book ‘Modern Painters’. Turner had an ambivalent attitude towards this young, earnest and self-appointed champion. Ruskin’s marriage to Effie Gray in 1848 was famously an unmitigated disaster.
DR PRICE: David Horovitch
Dr David Price (?-1870), son of a clergyman. Trained at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospitals in London. Prominent physician in Margate, where he moved for health reasons. Attended Turner for many years.
J.J.E. MAYALL: Leo Bill
John Jabez Edwin Mayall (1813-1901). Originated from Lancashire. After some years in Philadelphia as a photographer and daguerreotype specialist, he returned to England, setting up a studio in London’s Strand. He was always taken to be an American. When he photographed Queen Victoria, she described him in her journal as “the oddest man I ever saw”. Turner was fascinated by the new photography, and visited him on several occasions. No photographs of Turner have survived.
QUEEN VICTORIA: Sinéad Matthews
Queen Victoria (1819-1901) was an accomplished amateur artist, enjoying her annual visits to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions. Her taste veered towards the realistic and sentimental. A particular favourite was the animal painter and sculptor, Sir Edwin Landseer (see the four lions surrounding Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.) She loathed Turner’s work and to this day there are no Turners in the Royal Collection.
JOSEPH GILLOTT: Peter Wight
Joseph Gillott (1799-1872), the son of a workman in the cutlery trade. From Sheffield, Yorkshire. Steel pen maker and art patron. Patented and manufactured the Gillott pen nib in Birmingham. World famous, they are still in existence today. In the scene where Gillott offers to buy Turner’s entire collection, Mike Leigh has combined two anecdotes. Gillott did apparently offer to show Turner his “pictures” – the £5 notes – but it was actually another wealthy collector who wanted to buy everything for £100,000.
(From the production notes in the pressbook).