Week 7 – "The Significance of James Macpherson’s Ossian for the Art of J.M.W.Turner"

By Katherine Fender

Professor Murdo Macdonald (University of Dundee)

This landscape painting by Turner was formerly known as “Welsh Mountain Landscape” – but does, in fact, depict a Scottish mountain scene: “The Traveller – Vide Ossian’s War of Caros” (1802).



We’re very excited to be welcoming Professor Murdo Macdonald to Romantic Realignments this week. He’s here to speak to us about the painting you see above: one which has been mistakenly claimed as a representation of Welsh – rather than Scottish – landscape for many years, and is only now being considered in relation to the Scottish legend and verse that inspired Turner to create it.

Abstract


The identification earlier this year of J. M. W. Turner’s lost ‘Ossian’ painting dating from 1802 (see Macdonald and Shanes, forthcoming) provides a starting point for noting Turner’s intense engagement with poetry throughout his career and allows one to give a new reading of his later Ossian-related work ‘Staffa: Fingal’s Cave’, exhibited in 1832. The fact that Turner’s 1802 painting became detached from its title may reflect the cultural politics surrounding the reception of Macpherson’s ‘Ossian’ at the time. Turner’s painting can now take its place as part of the response to ‘Ossian’ of artists throughout Europe.