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If any man assert, that he can not find it, I am bound to disbelieve him! I cannot do otherwise without unsettling the very foundations of my own moral Nature. Newman from a similar viewpoint devoted his entire Grammar of Assent to demonstrating his distrust of rational persuasion as a means of winning converts to his faith, rejecting any supposedly logical proofs as being mere sophistry or 'smart syllogism'. The method he favoured was a touching of the heart in preference to the mind, until in the potential believer smaller truths absorbed along the way would converge irresistibly to form an integrated moral outlook.
The task of identifying those assumptions is more difficult in connection with Turner's work, as he was verbally almost inarticulate, his lectures on perspective at the Royal Academy, for example, being notoriously difficult to follow not only because of his extraordinarily poor delivery, a tendency to mumble, but, more relevant for the written record, his proclivity for using words in strange and esoteric ways. His lectures were, moreover, historical in content so that very little has been recorded of his personal views on art, apart from a few testy replies to adverse criticism.
During his major phase, it was his habit to submit his canvases for exhibition in an unfinished state, the paintings often consisting of no more than a few smudges or blotches, which he proceeded, on the allotted Varnishing Days before the official opening, to transform into finished works of art before the eyes of his colleagues. Rather than mere eccentricity as it has usually been regarded, such practice was, it would seem, a public demonstration of that very conception of the artist's function which he held dear, his desire, with more than a touch of showmanship, to 'play God' before an audience of his colleagues, ostensibly ignoring the crowd of curious professional onlookers yet clearly delighting in displaying his own version of the Fiat lux!
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