“I was a ship’s carpenter for Slavers.”
“Oh, such terrible sufferings that I did see! Threw ‘em off ships for insurance money. The poor unfortunate souls on those slave ships.”
Aboard the ship returning to London, Joseph explored the deck of the ship until he approached an empty room that overlooked the transient waves, rising and falling. He stared out the opposite window, the town of Margate a mere speck in the distance as the boat sailed away. The head of Helios slowly sinking behind the parapet perfectly captured within the circularity of the porthole. The glorious rays dispersed across the exceeding beauty of the North Sea. Perched upon the small, walnut desk was his sketchbook and his pencil laid beside. Joseph pondered the pleasant interlude encountered a moment before he departed the house, it was a most intriguing anecdote told by Mr Harris. A story that instilled within Joseph an intense feeling of sorrow. The deep marigold tones that filled the sky exuded a boldly disturbing scene kindred to his thoughts. He seized this sight within the brown shading on the soft ivory coloured paper and accompanied his view with short verse. It was an unusual gesture by Joseph; he wasn’t one with words.
“Aloft all hands, strike the top-masts and belay;
Yon angry setting sun and fierce-edged clouds
Declare the Typhon’s coming.
Before it sweeps your decks, throw overboard
The dead and dying – ne’er heed their chains
Hope, Hope, fallacious Hope!
Where is thy market now?”
* * *
He drew away the four wooden panes that concealed the room. An exuberance of light flooded the dimly lit room, exposing the array of pigments contained within glass jars lined along the honeyed wood of the oaken shelves. A small desk, a chair and an easel positioned just before the large windows that surround the room. A blank canvas stretched across a wooden frame perched upon an easel, awaiting the arrival of the Slave Ship.
The large muller smoothed the mixture of blue ultramarine and poppy seed oil, the final colour to accompany the drama of chrome yellow and Indian red. The diminishing light of the setting sun imagined within his sketchbook laid open on his desk, his poem certainly exuded a most terrifying scene. The possibility of words and paint! Now to express “Yon angry setting sun’ within the expansive parameters of the canvas. His movements across the painting were the antithesis of caution. The intense, abrupt movements of the brush dispersed the grey-blue, his movements mimicking the malevolence of the sea. The aperture precisely off centre applied over the darkened background, illuminated with the scarlet hues that contrasted the presence of God’s good light. The sublimity of God’s presence revealed that the existence of hope remains even in the gravest of instances. He had a deep fascination with the movement of light, he once exclaimed that “The Sun is God!”.
The chamber vicinal to his atelier contained an amassment of his works. Muslin drapes ceiled above, small Bluebottles struggled within the pleats of the fabric. The maroon paint struggled to grip onto the walls where the involute gold frames rested. The tiddly, aging room exhibited a spectacle of paintings that occupied all four walls. The Stygian room barely captured the luminous power of paint that immersed itself in the scarlet lake tones of The Slave ship. Joseph’s creations were a blithe disregard for the convention of the old landscape masters. The systematic establishment of the Royal Academy was no place for such paintings as the besom of convention swept his imagination out into the ante-room.
The peephole carved out in the adjacent walls framed the gallery as it beheld the inspection of viewers as they moved and deliberated over his paintings. Environed by the crazed brick, this subtle opening allowed Joseph’s discreet observations without discovery.
At 9 of the clock and the echoed sound of footsteps filled the stairwell as people ascended into the gallery. A woman and two men, one rather long in the tooth, arrived first. They were, in dress and carriage, customers of lucrative potential. Upon entering the room, Turner’s most recent work was the centre of the gallery’s universe. Its vibrancy contrasted the mellowed reflection of “The Fighting Termeraire” and “Sun Setting Over A Lake”. As Joseph gazed, his paintings exceeded the beauteous coalescence of the individual’s tenuous relationship with nature’s power. Others, however, their cynicism golloped all possibility of imagination.
From his small enclosure Joseph struggled to follow the unfolding of their appraisal. The slow clacking of shoes was the only noise heard until the three individuals came across the violent imagery of “The Slave Ship”. The inquisitive movement of the minacious waves consuming the unfortunate slaves captured the attention of its viewers. The woman, wildered of thought as she observed the haste motion of Joseph’s brush strokes. Her eyes furrowed at the politics of the work.
“Oh, what arrant nonsense!” she exclaimed. Her cynical tongue caused great discomfort to the ears of Joseph. “It baffles me, why diverge from the pastoral tradition of Claude Lorrain’s landscape work and indulge in this preposterous portrayal of a typhoon” remarked, the older gentlemen. The younger man, his stance speculative and thoughtful, exuded a benevolence absent in the others. “Indeed, it is a boldly rebellious piece. I find this image, however, renders a most riveting scene, it is much more compelling.”
“That is bold opinion, Sir” warned, the man. The
“That painting is a merging mess of yellow and ochre hues, there is no coherent form expressed in the technique.”
“It is exceedingly unconventional” stated the woman.
“I think it’s irrationality is a source of beauty.”
The crepuscular rays of the golden morn shone through the large windows of his studio. The sound of a closing door was heard below at the departure of his previous visitors. Their hardened words upon observing the painting were nothing beyond the ordinary with the exception of the young man’s vision. It was refreshing to encounter an individual of the same mind.
* * *
The briny breeze whistled in his ear, the salt settled on his skin at the slowed movement of the boat. His leather-bound sketchbook lay open in his hands as his eyes darted between the land, sea and page. The orange haze of the setting sun encased the sky and luminous petals speckled the sea as the anchored boats gently bounced amongst the waves. The pier packed in hugger-mugger as men dressed in begrimed brown britches, struggled with their boats in the constant tide. The swift movements of his hand seized the working men of Margate as the boat sailed into port.