Scanned from a copy of Hart's Reminiscences of 1882 in the London Library, and formatted, with a few links to other material on this website, by Jacqueline Banerjee. Page numbers are given in square brackets.
urner had no literary acquirements, and he attached no value to them. The intractable character of the man, to acquire the advaiitages of educational systems, Was shown even in his own art. When Malton attempted to teach him perspective, he gave up learning in disgust. He would not submit himself to the tedious rules which governed the perspective appearance of objects. His sense of perspective was one not capable of deﬁnition by any lingual phraseology.
Turner confessed to me, that Mr. Ruskin had often accredited him with motives that never actuated him. He Was, however, evidently alive to the value of that writer's remarks, as from their appearance, may be dated the increased appreciation of his art.
Detail of Turner's monument in St Paul's, by Patrick MacDowell.
Inconsistencies and paradoxes in this [48/49] great man's life are many. His defective education showed itself in all that he wrote or said. His speeches at the meetings of the Royal Academy were rambling and obscure. What he may have meant, he certainly failed to convey to his hearers. His oratory, when proposing the health of a newly-elected Associate, was vague and perplexing. His sense of the facetious was so confused, that when relating that he had met a German, who, upon being asked the respective ages of his wife and himself, replied that he was "Dirty and his wife Dirty too," Turner distorted the reply, by observing that the German had answered that he was "Dirty and that his wife was too Dirty."
His want of education may explain his dislike to writing letters. When invited to the Royal Academy Club dinner, of which I was for some years Secretary, instead of answering by note, he would call upon me, and half-opening the painting-room door, stare at me, and call out, "I'm coming, I'm coming," and instantly disappear. I may here observe that this club, which had been dissolved after the death of Sir T. Lawrence, was re—established by Messrs. C. R. Cockerell, [49/50] H. W. Pickersgill, and myself. Turner was a member at its reorganization, but afterwards resigned.
One day, meeting him on my way to the Thatched House Tavern to attend one of the Club dinners, he asked me, "Where are you going?" He was depressed, and uttered a lament that he could not join us. I offered to take him, and he cheerfully consented. I left him outside the door of the room Where the members were assembled. I proposed to introduce a stranger to them. They all objected, as it was against the rule to admit any one, save the members. I replied that they on that occasion would gladly break the rule, if I produced my friend. Turner was cordially welcomed. He was placed on the right of the chairman, and was the hero of the evening. He was much gratiﬁed, and I was thanked for What I had done. Once, with Dr. Mayo, the then President of the College of Physicians, I went to dine. Amongst others, were present Henry Hallam, Vice-Chancellor Kindersley, Prior, the author of the life of Goldsmith, and Edwin Field, a well-known solicitor. We were detained for some expected guest, when Mr. Turner Was announced. A little gentleman in black entered the room, dressed in a coat the cuffs of which covered his knuckles, his trousers were so long that they covered his insteps, and his shoes had ties fantastically out. Mr. Prior asked me whether it was possible, that this Mr. Turner could be the painter. All eyes were ﬁxed upon him. Mr. Field remarked to me, that our friend was making an unfavourable impression, and that something must be done to relieve him from the predicament. An observation having been made, at the moment, by some one about ﬁshing in Yorkshire, Turner an exert angler rushed at once into the conversation. He displayed a great amount of knowledge of the country, enriched by poetical, antiquarian, and other references. He monopolized the talk, and the rest of the company were willing listeners, and they rose from their seats, convinced of his mastery of the subject.
It is wrongly asserted, that Turner painted his pictures at the Royal Academy. He used to send his pictures there as complete as he could. He knew how much the aspect of a Work is affected, by moving it from the painting-room to the Exhibition. There he [51-52] saw how it fell short of his intention. So he endeavoured to enhance those effects, which had suffered from a deﬁcient light. It is alleged, that he used to damage his neighbours' pictures, by painting up his own to the fullest pitch. This was a privilege, at least, shared by all exhibitors. On such occasions, Turner appeared at early dawn, wrapped up in an overcoat with a handkerchief thrown loosely round his throat. He Worked from that time until nine o'clock; then he breakfasted. He resumed work as soon as he had ﬁnished his meal, and Went on until luncheon time, at one o'clock. After that he again went to work, and remained at it until seven p.m. He never, during these long hours, lost an instant, but toiled with all the enthusiasm of youth. It was marvellous how he could bear so great a strain.
Though it was well known that Turner was a very silent man, he would allow his attention to be diverted, at the request of a. friend, to look at a young Associate's picture. An instance of this, Thornbury has given in his life of Turner, in reference to myself, in which that painter rendered me an important [52/53] service. Thornbury has put a commercial estimate upon it, instead of regarding it, as an instance of Turner's liberality. His manner all through the varnishing days was very buoyant, and he seemed to be the only one amongst the exhibitors. who kept up his spirits during that anxious time.
Hart, Solomon. Reminiscences of Solomon Hart. Ed. Alexander Brodie. London: Wyman & Sons, 1882. 48-53.
Created 24 September 2018