Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
Dockstader, J
Journal Of Aesthetics And Phenomenology
Turner as a Daoist Sage
Optional Fields
In this paper, I provide a cross-cultural comparison between the life and work of the English land- and seascape painter, J.M.W. Turner, and the conception of aesthetic experience and artisanship found in classical Chinese Daoism. I argue that Turner exhibits certain key features of the Daoist sage. By developing some recent interpretations of his life and work, I claim that Turner, especially in his later seascapes, exhibited an approach to aesthetic experience that involves the artist's total absorption into and identification with the natural process with which he is concerned. Next, I show how the Daoist approach to aesthetics and artisanship similarly focuses on the artist's capacity to identify with the power and source of the world they aim to aesthetically experience. The central motif in both certain of Turner's later work and the Daoist approach to aesthetic creativity is the figure of the vortex. By becoming the center of a natural vortex, and even the vortex that is nature itself, the Turnerian and Daoist artist experiences and embodies the wisdom of accessing and identifying with nature's omnipotence. Such wisdom is thus expressed in the artwork by emphasizing the fundamental dynamism and vagueness of all things. I conclude by claiming that if one reads Turner as a Daoist sage, then a novel model for the aesthetic experience and appreciation of nature can be offered. I call this "the identification model" and recommend it being slotted into our taxonomy of contemporary options within environmental aesthetics.
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