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The Bible was a prime source of subjects that were both sensational and intellectually elevated. A critic commenting on this painting of the Biblical flood admired ‘that severity of manner which was demanded by the awfulness of the subject’. Turner does seem to be referring to the ‘severe’ style of the 17th-century French artist Nicolas Poussin. He also connected the picture to the poetry of John Milton, the most severely Sublime of poets.

Turner became an important model for younger artists of the apocalyptic Sublime, notably John Martin and Francis Danby (on display in room 14).

September 2004