Monday, 20 January 2014

Turner at Sea The selling example of the artist Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775 -1851

 (At the heart of Turner’s ambitious print project of British Landscape Art  Book of Studies (Liber Studiorum) he assigned different letters to each  category of landscape painting and included them at the top of each image. Marine Painting was identified by the letter ‘M’.)

Art writers tend not to use the ‘S’ word where the letter  S = Selling in their writing. Perhaps they consider it a little ‘vulgar’.

For example the booklet accompanying the ‘Turner and the Sea’ exhibition at The National Maritime Museum opens

“ Turner was an accomplished showman from the start of his career, strategically displaying works to generate patronage and publicity.”

A commercial eye would translate ‘generate patronage’ more straightforwardly as selling and ‘publicity’ as marketing promotion.

Going round the exhibition at the National Maritime Museum you can also learn what a consummate hard working salesman he must have been as well as an artistic genius.

Reading about his life and looking at this exhibition of his sea pictures and their back stories, I don’t think Turner was coy about selling art or ‘generating patronage’.

Early Signs of the Salesman

J.M.W. Turner was a son of a barber and wig maker, his mother from a family of butchers.

 By the age of eleven we know Turner's drawings were being exhibited in his father's shop window and sold for a few shillings.

He entered the Royal Academy of Art schools in 1789, when he was 14 years old, and was accepted into the academy a year later. Sir Joshua Reynolds, president of the Royal Academy, chaired the panel that admitted him.

Competitive Drive  USP

Turner exhibited his first oil painting at the Academy in 1796, ‘Fishermen at Sea’ 1796: a nocturnal moonlit scene off The Needles, which lie off the Isle of Wight which is shown at the exhibition in Greenwich alongside other pictures at the same show in 1796.

You can see how his style of painting differentiates from the ‘competition’.

The image of boats in peril contrasts the cold light of the moon with the firelight glow of the fisherman's lantern

Competitive Spirit, Direct Distribution and Price Leadership

Turner apparently relished the public acclaimed he received and enjoyed the spirit of competition encourage in the London Art market at the time.

In 1804 he built his own gallery attached to his house in Harley Street and from 1806 he regularly submitted pictures to the British Institution and a new exhibition space in Pall Mall.

It mattered not whether he was working in water colour, or oil, he always wanted to be better (and charge more ) than his competitor painters.

As a new generation of marine artists entered the market to challenge his dominance often emulating his former style, Turner’s response was to take his creative offerings in a new direction. Today's experts in Branding would be impressed the way Turner re-invented "Brand Turner" many times well before the phenomenon of our day - Brand 'Beckham' !

Sales success

Turner's talent was recognised early in his life. ( He sold well) Financial independence allowed Turner to innovate freely .

Research and insight and Networking

One picture caught my eye. 'The Regatta beating to Windward 1828 Oil on Canvass on loan from Indianapolis Museum of Art. Turner stayed at the Isle of Wight home of J Nash Esq East Cowes Castle.

" ...The highlight of the event that year was the race for his Majesty's Cup awarded by George IV to the winning yacht 'Arrow'. Turner took notes of the names of the yachts  and the owners and made numerous oil sketches of the yachts racing in the Solent or returning to their moorings."  - p 188 of Turner and the Sea - Exhibition Catalogue and Book

As he grew older he continued to experiment with new and unconventional ways to depict the sea. He clearly appreciated the importance to keep the brand fresh.

He also ‘got’ technological change. 

The much loved painting of the Fighting Temeraire being tugged to the breakers’ yard in Rotherhithe by a steam powered paddle tug of course mourns  nostalgically and patriotically the passing of sail power but recognises change technological progress. He would have embraced Selling 3.0

Continual Professional Development.

Turner was rarely without a sketchbook and colours whether working at home or in his travels throughout Britain and the continent.  

Around 20,000 of his drawings and watercolours together with numerous unfinished oil paintings were left to the nation as the Turner Bequest.

One of the most fascinating exhibits in the exhibition is ‘Calais Pier Sketchbook’ – study for a sea piece, with small boats in choppy water. It is a pen and ink with wash and extensive black and whit chalk on blue paper.

The show closes in April don't miss it whether you admire the Salesman Turner or the painter Turner or like me BOTH !

Related Information

3rd November 2014 The Turner Prize, named after the painter J. M. W. Turner, is an annual prize presented to a British visual artist under the age of 50.Awarding the prize is organised by the Tate gallery and staged at Tate Britain.
Although it represents all media and painters have also won the prize, it has become associated primarily with conceptual art

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