From Library Journal
This is a remarkably balanced look at one of the most contradictory personalities in British art. By keenly appraising primary, secondary, and tertiary sources, New Yorker writer Bailey has painted a vivid image of a man who could be generous or mean, outgoing or withdrawn, flamboyant or precise, but always a keen observer of the world around him. The book is a delight to read, combining meticulous scholarship, vibrant description, and a wonderful sense of place and person. From the opening's splendid evocation of the London of Turner's birth through the trips to later descriptions of the harbors and ports of his inspiration, his secretive domestic arrangements, and the final days of his life, this work well serves the artist and the reader. Highly recommended.?Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Bailey displays all the assurance one would expect from a longtime New Yorker
staff writer and author of 20 books in this brisk and enlightening biography of the great English painter of sky, sea, and storm. So energized is Bailey's portrait, the first in 30 years, that the extraordinary research and feats of interpretation upon which it is based are as invisible and taken for granted as the infrastructure of a metropolis. Bailey clearly relishes his subject's contradictoriness and penchants for "causing confusion" and keeping secrets, and he is intrigued with Turner's habit of writing inchoate verse, but most of all he is delighted by Turner's unrelenting artistic passion and commitment to hard work. As Bailey tracks Turner's steady rise from his modest home turf, the streets of a red-light district in late-eighteenth-century London, to art's highest echelon, he incisively describes his social circle and historical context, then grows expansive as he chronicles the journeys that so inspired this "child of the sea." Bailey has brought the feisty genius (who looked like a sea captain) out from behind the extraordinarily dramatic seascapes he is revered for, and sure enough, Turner himself is a force of nature. Donna Seaman