There is a moment in this film when the artist JMW Turner is offered £100,000 for every last piece of his work. A tempting offer you might think, but the eccentric genius turns it down. His paintings, he says, will be left to the nation. A generous gesture, yet at other times Turner seems an inspired, troubled, lonely man. Full of ability and creative genius, yet unable to connect with his own family, and fearful of genuine intimacy. He entertains and impresses as he spits and grunts his way through his paint-spattered life, and yet he rarely sees his own daughters or grandchild.
I have often pondered on the way that much creativity seems to flow from struggle and strife. Some of the saddest people have made the best comedians, and many artists are tortured and thereby driven to paint. As the years pass we watch them and wonder, and their work inspires, touches and encourages many of us.
But I’m challenged too by something Jesus says, when his friends are arguing about which of them is the greatest, funniest, bravest, most inspiring etc… In the Living Bible version of Luke 9 verse 48, Jesus tells his friends, ‘Your care for others is the measure of your greatness.’ And to prove the point he calls a little child over, a second-class citizen in his day, and tells his friends to learn from these ‘little ones’. By ‘little ones’ Jesus refers not only to the very young, but the overlooked and marginalized too. The unknowns and disregarded of this world. ‘Watch and learn,’ Jesus says, ‘watch and learn.’