VIDEO: A Moment in Art History – The Fighting Temeraire – why this JMW Turner piece is “England’s favorite painting”

In this Moment in Art History, we’ll look at Turner’s famous piece, “The Fighting Temeraire.” What makes this piece so iconic, and why did Turner take so many artistic liberties with it?

I also share how a seasick-prone gallery owner (me!) can fall in love with naval art.

My interview with Franny Moyle about her book Turner: The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W. Turner:

Art in the background of this video:

Shalece Fiack (Landscapes):

Richard Harrington (Barns):

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. Thanks for this, Jason. Turner continues to be an inspiration to me. Before I knew a thing about art or became an artist I knew about Turner from a documentary. Everything in his works caught me, and I still return to him. In fact, I have an abstract paper sculpture based on his work ‘Ships Bearing Up For Anchorage’ going into a show later this month. It’s humbling to pay homage to the visionary he was. If you take a sec to visit my site, you’ll see the work titled, ‘Egremont 1802’. I own an excellent book by Andrew Wilton on Turner’s work and will certainly give the podcast a listen with what I know will be appreciation. Thanks and cheers.

  2. Hi Jason,

    Thank you very much for these ‘Moments in Art History’ and the insightful information they give. I was very fortunate years ago to visit the Turner Wing in the Tate Museum in London. Needless to say, I was in awe, as he so magically involves the viewer in his work by leaving so much unstated. I also enjoyed viewing his sketchbooks, where his plans for the painting could be viewed. This visit was a memorable feast for the eyes.


  3. Hi Jason –

    Thank-you so much for this blogpost regarding JMW Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire! JMW Turner is my favorite painter of all time. And though I like The Fighting Temeraire very much (I can’t think of ANY Turner painting I don’t like), it is far from my favorite, for while very grand, and evocative of the sense of “fading glory” it does not capture any of the powerful forces of nature of which Turner was a master without peer. I much prefer his works of stormy seas such as “Fishing Boats with Hucksters Bargaining for Fish” (1837-38) or “Rotterdam Ferry-Boat” (1833) both of which capture the incredible turbulence of truly wild ocean or “Valley of Aosta Snowstorm, Avalanche and Thunderstorm” (1836-37) showing another of nature’s furies. And even on the relatively calm Thames, I prefer his series of “Burning of the Houses of Parliament” (1835) which was a truly momentous event that went on for over 3 days (and Turner was onboard a small boat in there middle of the Thames for almost all of that time), and for which he produced many related paintings.

    I have seen 2 of Turner’s works in a museum – Fishing Boats Entering Calais Harbor (1803) & Antwerp: Van Goyen Looking Out for a Subject (1833) both in the Frick Museum in NYC and love them both – but instead of spending hours in front of them as I might have liked, I was a bit more limited in time, because after all it was the Frick, which has such an incredible collection of art that I did need to spend some time with other works (3 of the only 27 Vermeer’s in the world are there) and the 5 or 6 huge Fragonnard’s landscapes dominating the library are worth hours all by themselves, and though I’ve been in the Frick quite a few times, there never seems enough time for it all even with multiple visits – but still the Turner’s get a very very long visit every time I’m there.

    I had not known of the Turner biography book you recommend, but will now surely seek it out for an upcoming winter’s read on some snowy, frozen winter Jan or Feb nights. But I can also highly recommend the film biography on Turner’s life made in 2014, “Mr Turner” directed by Mike Leigh – to quote’s review: “Mr. Turner” understands creative people on every conceivable level, and translates that understanding with a deftness rarely seen outside of astute documentaries about creative people. To watch it is to feel as though you’re a part of its world”.

    A comment about your favorite movie “Master and Commander” which I consider the ultimate masterpiece of marine stories – this movie is as authentic as any movie could ever possibly be concerning 1- the British Navy; 2- sailing ships and the sea in general 3- the ocean itself. In order to get the actual feeling of sailing in the Southern Ocean (that part of the world where the Atlantic and the Pacific meet with no land at all between them) which is where you must go to “round the horn”, the director Peter Weir went so far as to get special permission to equip all the boats in the “Vendee Round the World Race” with 35 mm professional film cameras so they could capture actual footage of the Southern Ocean during their race, which footage he used extensively in the film! So it not only feels authentic, it is authentic! – and although my ocean sailing experience is limited (1 trip for Bermuda to Maine in a 42′ ketch), I can tell you that no movie I’ve ever seen comes as close as this film to the feeling of the real thing!!

    And finally an anecdote about a close call with a “real” Turner – at one point in my life, I was obsessed with collecting cigarette lighters, and would haunt all the flea markets throughout NYC and eastern Long Island on a continual basis seeking out any incredible finds – well one time at a very famous flea market on 26th street in Manhattan, where I was a very regular visitor, at the end of the day as it was closing, and after I had spent ALL my money on some cigarette lighters, /I chanced to start looking at someone’s offerings of printed artworks, just out of curiosity – and while the proprietor of that both was already starting to pack his things away, I came across a Turner lithograph – it was small (about 5″x7″) and not of the greatest subject matter- but it was unquestionably 1) a Turner & 2) real – and it was $45. yes $45!! – the proprietor unquestionably didn’t know what he had — But I had zero dollars left in my wallet (and he didn’t take credit cards – cash only) So I told him to hold it – I’d be right back, as there was a bank with a cash machine just 3 blocks away – and off I went – But when I came back just about 10 minutes later, the man said “Oh I didn’t think you were really going to come back, I’m afraid I packed it already” I asked if he could unpack it – but he just pointed into his van which was crammed to the gills with every possible sort and size of packages, and said “find it?? In there??? Why don’t you come back next week. I’ll bring it with me next time”. I was there every week for the next month searching through all his prints (he had probably thousands, if not many many hundreds) – but to no avail – neither he nor I could find the lithograph – he swore he hadn’t sold it – he just couldn’t find it in all his stuff, and I never saw it again – so that was my close call with a Turner!!!

  4. I also love JMW Turner. Once, when visiting my British relatives, my uncle tried to take us to see Petworth House. My uncle had worked for Britain, restoring mansions and castles. He had restored Petworth House, where Turner spent time and did many paintings. Sadly, it was closed the day we went. Thank you so much for, “A Moment in Art History” each week. I am enjoying them.

  5. Turner is a favourite of mine and I was fortunate to visit the Tate some 30 years ago. Spectacular. I couldn’t say I have a favourite, nor do I remember seeing this actual piece, too inexperienced I suppose. What I do remember very well is the feeling I experienced upon viewing Turner’s work, so many of them at one go. I felt they are mysterious and intense, very emotional, to say the least, overwhelming. So its time to return… Thank you, Jason.

  6. Very insightful. I’ve heard a lot about Turner over the years, but this was interesting insight behind the man and the artist. Enjoyed learning about his work and a little about his life. There is an emotion in this painting and it was enjoyable to hear the story behind it. Thanks much.

  7. Great informative video. I did learn of Turner in my college days and I do like the painting. Turner is inspirational as well as innovative in his method of portraying a subject. He presents a strong emotional tie with his choice of subject. For the time that he painted, he was someone who could represent a feeling while putting in place a revolutionary style.

  8. Turner is one of my favorites as well. I have seen many of his paintings in museums. For me the surface and abstract quality of his painting is sensational. I really loved a show I saw of his watercolors which were abstract, fresh and appeared to be effortless.
    As a long time sailor, the stories I’ve heard of him tethering himself to the maste are nuts. Yet the story, I always think of about Turner is how he would bring his atmospheric painting into a gallery for the show. He had no realistic imagery in the paintings which horrified the gallery owner. Once the paintings were there, he would add a boat or someother little anchor of reference to satisfy the gallery owner. Thus the abstract atmospheric quality is what I find most exciting in his work.

  9. You have had lots of videos regarding the necessity that an artist paint what is of interest to him/her, that they be true to their discovered style and subject matter.

    BUT, it it seems that Turners real talent and focus came from a kind of photo illustration of current events, AND they were done is a style that was in vogue at the time. Good (perhaps great) but not unique or original. Turner seems to capture moments in history that are of course, moments in real time as he painted them.

    1. Are you aware of any modern-day painters that are diligent to capture the world as it is today?

    2. Are there any that record and make commentary regarding current events or is that now the realm of photojournalism and news video?

    3. What do my observations suggest regarding subject matter, if anything?

    (Yes, the painting are great!)

  10. Another wonderful description of a moment in history. I thoroughly enjoyed it Jason. Also, you might check the link to the podcast. I wasn’t able to make it work. It might just be me.

  11. JMW Turner was a phenomenally talented painter. Tate Britain’s website, which watches over the “Turner Bequest” has over 39,000 entries (!).He stated that he was interested in painting what he “saw, not what was there”.

    Most of his works, through the years, and the ones that paid his bills and bought him his very large home, were landscapes. He painted one gorge so many times that he was known as the “Prince of the Rocks”. He was arrogant and had regular tiffs with the Royal Academy, the president of same even going so far as to call Turner’s paintings “crude blotches”. Nonetheless, the Academy conferred the title of Professor of Perspective on him, and Turner actually appended PP to his name frequently when he signed.

    I’ve seen quite a few of his original works in museums and I consider him an early – and visionary – Expressionist, paving the way for artist who came very much later.

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