Monday, January 28, 2013

James Mallord William Turner, Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying

In the 1800s, the abolition of slavery was a hot topic; however, the practice did not end until decades later. Naturally, slaves were seen as inferior--less than human. They were nothing more than a labor source for the social hierarchy. 

Back then, slavery was a social issue very similar to the present gay rights and abortion issues. Proponents of the latter two were in the minority much like how abolitionists (those against slavery) were. To speak up against the norm was to rebel, and nobody wanted to stand out in such a way. James Mallord William Turner, like many artists, wanted his voice to be heard. Though slavery ended in England in 1840, aristocrats were still profiting from them. Turner, being against such practice, painted "Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying."

At first glance, the painting looks like an english ship navigating its way through treacherous waves among a beautiful sunset. The foreground, however, paints a much more horrendous picture. People's arms are shown sticking out of the water, desperately trying to keep from drowning; furthermore, bodies are shown drifting on the surface. The story behind this cruel display is inhumane. English Sailors in the boat were coming across a large typhoon. To avoid sinking, they began to toss out slaves to lighten the load of the ship. Think about this for a second...REAL HUMAN beings were tossed overboard--sacrificed--so that maybe it will help keep the ship afloat. 

Naturally, the painting received mixed reactions. By creating this graphic painting, Turner shouted his opposition to such abominable practices. I can safely assume that this painting touched if a vast number of people. 

Of course, Turner was just one of few artists/abolitionists. In the six months that Eyre Crowe (originally from England) spent in America (1852-53), he painted numerous pictures of slave trades. One of them is called 

After the Sale: Slaves going South. 

The painting shows a poignant scene of family (notably mother and child) struggling to stay together after an involuntary slave trade. To the viewers right, we see white men doing business like NOTHING! Crowe displayed just another travesty that slavery has caused--the breaking apart of family. 

I am a HUGE fan of art that rebels against cruel practices. Artists like these get to voice there opinion around the globe, touching uncountable viewers! Such stimulating art is vital to actually creating change. Of course, abolitionists won in the end, giving much credibility to these artists.

No comments:

Post a Comment