Illustrated poetry through the ages – J.M.W. Turner

The pairing of art and poetry has a long and storied history – I’ve mentioned before instances where poems are the only record we have left of a painting and poetry that was inspired by art. In 1840, J.M.W. Turner exhibited his masterpiece “Slave-Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On)” at the Royal Academy.  He paired it with an excerpt from his unfinished poem “Fallacies of Hope” from 1812. Several websites suggest that he did this to try to make more of an impression on Prince Albert, who was speaking at a nearby meeting, and urge him to intensify British abolitionist efforts. Exhibited today, the MFA has the lines of the poem printed on the placard next to the painting. I do not know how Turner originally presented his poem with his painting, but I thought it would be interesting to see it paired on a more equal sizing than the giant painting-tiny print format.


Slave-shipTurner was inspired to write the poem and paint the picture by the story of a slave ship captain who threw sick and dying slaves overboard in the face of an oncoming storm in order to collect the insurance money – as he would receive no compensation for slaves who died enroute, only those “lost at sea.”


    1. Agreed – I have always loved his artwork but only recently learned that he was a poet as well (and was thrilled!). Thanks for sharing the link – I am now following Dial the Lobster. I am looking forward to reading more on there. I took an art history class in college and absolutely loved it and enjoy it still. Thank you! Sincerely, Marcy


      1. Thanks so much! I have my PhD in Art History (but didn’t go into research in the end) and have always kind of regretted not studying Turner. I love poetry too – write it when I can – and am a huge Elizabeth Bishop fan! 🙂


  1. p.s. WordPress imposes a de facto 15 tag/category limit on each post but I’m guessing that you’re aware of that and exceeding it on purpose to increase your Google exposure and get a wider audience.


    1. I didn’t know about that limit! Well, that’s good to know – I wonder, do they take the first 15 I list or alphabetically? But you are right, the search engine exposure never hurt 🙂


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Marcy, believe it or not WordPress actually limits or prevents your exposure when you exceed 15 tags+categories! I have learned this from my own personal experience. Whenever I exceed 15 tags+categories my “likes” and comments go down dramatically! I think this is because WordPress is actually keeping me off their topic listings (and who knows what else they are doing!) I was wondering why your posts never seem to get the attention they deserve. There are a lot of poets on WordPress but you really stand out – you are really knowledgeable and creative. Try limiting your tags+categories and see what happens. Here’s the WordPress support page about the tag+categories limit (scroll down to the bottom):


      2. Hi John, Thanks – I had no idea!! I read up on what you sent me and I’m fixing my posts. I had noticed that there was a lot of inconsistency in the views/likes/etc a post would get, but I couldn’t figure it out. I had to laugh at myself – I was definitely of the mindset “if a few tags are good – more must be better!”
        Thanks for all of the support and help – I really do appreciate it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Marcy, I promise I won’t bother you anymore but I just wanted to tell you that you should also add each of your posts to “StumbleUpon” if you are not doing so already. There is a WordPress sharing button but I also do it manually for each post. Here’s the link:


  2. It’s amazing how much you know about poetry. This is my Dad’s favorite painter. He has told me about him my whole life and I never knew about this poem. There is a biopic about Turner that is coming out soon and the trailer looks really good. His poem is pretty good! The painting reminds me of “The Raft of the Medusa” but I was not aware of the abolitionism aspect of this painting either. Great job!


    1. Thanks! It’s fun to do the research and learn about all the connections between the artists and historical events. I’ll have to check out the biopic about Turner – he lived a very interesting and long life – and I bet it would make a good movie!


      Liked by 1 person

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