To look at a Turner is exciting enough, but to hear Schama talk about him was like bringing Turner's paintings to life. It was nothing less than sheer brilliance. Schama teaches at Columbia University, but his reputation as an art historian is internationally renown. He knows so much about so many aspects of modern art and history that it rolls off his tongue like an encyclopedia. But he's never boring (he was supposed to speak for 45 minutes, went on for another 30 minutes, and I could have listened easily for an additional 30 minutes). He engaged the audience with his usual "Britty" attitude (my neologism, meaning British wit), simultaneously entertaining and educating that I wanted to keep hearing more. Even more importantly, he spoke to us as intelligent human beings, pointing out elements using language that made me want to know more. For instance, in one Turner picture of the ruins of a church, he described the lighting as "a poetic conduit between past and present." The focus of his talk was on the British element in Turner's work, demonstrating how even though his work transcends national sensibility, there is an innate quality to Turner's work that is essentially British. His work reveals what Schama called "visionary patriotism."
If you want to hear what Schama has to say about other artists, then you must check out his Power of Art series, now available on DVD (the episodes on Rembrandt, Turner, and van Gogh are my favorites). If you want to see more works by Turner and can't get to London, go to the Tate Britain's online Turner Collection to see images of the collection of his works that he bequeathed to the British people in his will.