The Fighting Temeraire

Living in North London, raised by parents who gave me a great deal of liberty, I discovered the Tate and the National Galleries when I was very young, and in my early teens they became among my favourite places to visit. I could not have wished for a better grounding in the subject of art, especially as I could form my own tastes and opinions without some adult telling me what I should or shouldn’t like.
During the school holidays I used to visit these galleries early in the week when there would be few people there. I developed an especially great love for certain of the pictures on display, and by going early in the week I got to stand in front of these pictures, quite alone, and look at them, think about them, enjoy them, to my heart’s content. Just for those few minutes, I was the only person in the world who was looking at the real paintings and not one of the millions of reproductions scattered around the world; just for those few minutes, I owned them. Constable, Van Gogh, Monet, Turner, DaVinci, they had painted these works for me.
I remember the picture where I first recall having this particular thought, at about the age ten. It’s ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ by JMW Turner, and it’s to be found in the Tate Gallery: there is no picture I have ever found quite as fascinating as this one, for the skill of the brushwork, the nigh-perfect combination of colour and composition, and for the story it tells.

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