New National Gallery Exhibition Shows Claude Lorrain’s Influence on J M W Turner

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artwork: Joseph Mallord William Turner - "Dido building Carthage, or The Rise of the Carthaginian Empire", 1815 - Oil on canvas - 155.5 x 230 cm. - Collection of the National Gallery, London. On view in "Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude" from March 14th until June 5th.


London.- The National Gallery is pleased to present “Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude” on view from March 14th through June 5th. Turner’s lifelong fascination with the light filled Italian Landscapes of the artist Claude Lorrain, are the focus of this exhibition, the most in-depth examination to date of Turner’s experience of Claude’s art. Featuring major loans, including expressive late works by Turner. Turner admired Claude Lorrain most of all the Old Masters and enthused about the quality of light in the artist’s Italian landscapes. On his death, Turner left the National Gallery ‘Dido building Carthage’ and ‘Sun rising through Vapour: Fishermen cleaning and selling Fish’ in his will on condition that they were hung between two pictures by Claude, which he named as ‘The Seaport’ (‘Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba’) and ‘The Mill’ (‘Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca’).

This exhibition brings together other closely related works by both artists, many of which share the same theme, giving visitors a chance to appreciate fully the enormous influence Claude’s mastery of light and landscape had on Turner from his formative years until the end of his life. ‘Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude’ introduces visitors to the story of the Turner Bequest and its importance in the history of the National Gallery, with the final room of the show exhibiting archive material dedicated to this relationship. Turner and Lorrain had much in common, both came from humble origins, Lorrain was orphaned at the age of 12, Turner (the son of a barber and wig maker) was often sent to live with his uncle. Both found success at at a relatively early age, travelled widely in Europe, enjoyed long careers and died extremely wealthy men.

artwork: Claude Lorrain - "Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba", 1648 - Oil on canvas - 149.1 x 196.7 cm. Collection of the National Gallery, London. On view in "Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude"

Turner is perhaps the best-loved English Romantic artist. He became known as ‘the painter of light’, because of his increasing interest in brilliant colours as the main constituent in his landscapes and seascapes. His works include water colours, oils and engravings. Turner was born near Covent Garden in London and entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1789. His earliest works form part of the 18th-century topographical tradition. He was soon inspired by 17th-century Dutch artists such as Willem van der Velde, and by the Italianate landscapes of Claude and Richard Wilson. He exhibited watercolours at the Royal Academy from 1790, and oils from 1796. In 1840 he met the critic John Ruskin, who became the great champion of his work. Turner became interested in contemporary technology, as can be seen from ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ and ‘Rain, Steam and Speed’. At the time his free, expressive treatment of these subjects was criticised, but it is now widely appreciated. Turner bequeathed much of his work to the nation. The great majority of the paintings are now at Tate Britain.

Claude Gellée was born in the Duchy of Lorraine but left around 1612 for Germany, then Rome, where he became a studio assistant to the landscapist Agostino Tassi. He visited Naples and returned to Nancy before settling permanently in Rome around 1628. He sketched in the Roman countryside with Poussin. Ideas from the drawings he made were integrated into oil paintings finished in the studio. Claude recorded his compositions in drawings, in the ‘Liber Veritatis’ (Book of Truth), now in the British Museum, perhaps to prevent pastiches being sold. Scottish and English aristocrats on the 18th-century Grand Tour bought many of his works; a number in the Collection come from such sources. Claude was influenced by other northern painters who had worked in Rome, such as Elsheimer. He was also influenced by the Bolognese artists Annibale Carracci and Domenichino, who evolved the balanced classical landscapes he used. In his turn Claude exerted considerable influence on landscape artists of the 18th and 19th centuries, as these examples show. The English painter Turner was especially indebted to Claude, and tried to outdo his grand compositions. In the Turner Bequest he directed that two of his works should hang with two of Claude’s in the Gallery.

artwork: Joseph Mallord William Turner - "Sun rising through Vapour: Fishermen cleaning and selling Fish", before 1807 Oil on canvas - 134 x 179.5 cm.  - Collection of the National Gallery, London. In "Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude" from March 14th until June 5th.

The first paintings in the National Gallery collection came from the banker and collector John Julius Angerstein. They consisted of Italian works, including a large altarpiece by Sebastiano del Piombo, “The Raising of Lazarus”, and fine examples of the Dutch, Flemish and English Schools. In 1823 the landscape painter and art collector, Sir George Beaumont (1753 – 1827), promised his collection of pictures to the nation, on the condition that suitable accommodation could be provided for their display and conservation. The gift of the pictures was made in 1826. They went on display alongside Angerstein’s pictures in Pall Mall until the whole collection was moved to Trafalgar Square in 1838. Initially, the Gallery had no formal collection policy, and new pictures were acquired according to the personal tastes of the Trustees. By the 1850s the Trustees were being criticised for neglecting to purchase works of the earlier Italian Schools, then known as the Primitives. Following the reform of Gallery administration in 1855, the new Director travelled throughout Europe to purchase works for the Gallery. In the 10 years that he was Director, Sir Charles Eastlake ensured that the Gallery’s collection of Italian painting expanded and widened in scope to become one of the best in the world. Eastlake’s purchases included Botticelli’s “Adoration of the Kings” and Uccello’s, “The Battle of San Romano”. In 1871 the Gallery’s collection was broadened yet further, when 77 paintings were bought from the collection of the late Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel. These consisted mainly of Dutch and Flemish paintings, and included Hobbema’s “The Avenue at Middleharnis”. From the very beginning, the National Gallery’s collection had included works by British artists. By the mid-1840s, the rooms of the National Gallery had become overcrowded. When Robert Vernon presented a large gift of British works to the Gallery in 1847, they had to be displayed elsewhere: first at Vernon’s private house, and later at Marlborough House. Not long afterwards, the artist Joseph Mallord William Turner bequeathed over 1000 paintings, drawings and watercolours. When they came into the collection in 1856, they had to be displayed at South Kensington, along with the Vernon collection, which was moved from Marlborough House. In 1876 the National Gallery was enlarged, and the paintings were returned to Trafalgar Square. Following the completion of the Sainsbury Wing in 1991, the Gallery has a total floor area of 46,396 metres squared – equivalent to around six football pitches. It would be big enough to hold over 2,000 London double-decker buses. Visit the museum’s website at … http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk