J. M. W. Turner’s 1840 picture of a slave ship has one of the most colorful critical histories of any painting. From Thackeray to Ruskin, and Mark Twain to Paul Gilroy, writers and thinkers have been alternately fascinated and repelled by its enigmatic imagery. Leo Costello embraces that complexity, considering not only the picture’s complex place within Turner’s ouevre but also how the picture negotiated questions of history, abolition, and the representation the Middle Passage.
Leo Costello, associate professor, Department of Art History, Rice University
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