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Harvest celebrations are shown in a barn of shadowy but cathedral-like proportions. Turner’s drawing for it (Tate) shows an outdoor setting, with notes about ‘men half drunk’ and those waiting to be served looking ‘eager and cunning’. It is labelled ‘Ld Essex’s Harvest Home’, and the slightly unfinished painting was probably intended as a companion to the more idyllic scene of harvesting in Cassiobury Park also shown here. Influenced by earlier Dutch art, this scene of modern life shows Turner reacting to the recent emergence of the young David Wilkie, with his busy, carefully-detailed crowd scenes.

February 2010