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Tintern Abbey, a watercolor painting by Joseph Turner, does not depict
accurately the Tintern Abbey described by Wordsworth in his poem Lines Composed a
Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey; nor does it compliment the mood of the poem.
Reasons for this include: wrong mood in painting and wrong placement of building.
Although this painting does not compliment Wordsworth’s poem necessarily, it does
not mean it should not be respected for the great piece of artwork it is.
The mood of Tintern Abbey is very somber and melancholy. The colors are very
drab, and Turner seems to focus more on the fact that is dilapidated, than the fact that
it was once a great building. Also, the mood of Wordsworth’s poem is not melancholy
at all. While writing this poem he was very happy, and excited as he enjoyed the
Abbey again through his sister’s eyes. Wordsworth himself said, “No poem of mine was
composed under circumstances more pleasant for me to remember than this.” One
can attribute the melancholy mood to Turner’s style which was impressionistic and
typical of the era. The Slave Ship, another painting by Turner, further proves this.
The placement, or the view of the abbey, is also inaccurate. In the poem
Wordsworth describes the abbey as being in a river valley, with rivers and streams
surrounding it. It also implies that the building is positioned near a cliff. Even the title
itself proves that the view portrayed by Turner is inaccurate. Lines Composed a Few
Miles Above Tintern Abbey: this means that the view would be a “bird’s eye” one or a
distant view. Yet, Turner’s painting is painted as if he is standing at the entrance.
Tintern Abbey, by Joseph Turner, does not portray accurately or compliment
the Tintern Abbey described by Wordsworth in his poem. The discordant mood and
view of the painting can help one to come to this conclusion. This proves to us that a
picture, or in this case a painting, is not necessarily worth a thousand words.
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British poetry, River Wye, Cadw, Tintern Abbey, Tintern, William Wordsworth
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