Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'The Bay of Baiae, with Apollo and the Sibyl' exhibited 1823

Joseph Mallord William Turner
The Bay of Baiae, with Apollo and the Sibyl exhibited 1823
Oil on canvas
support: 1454 x 2375 mm frame: 1718 x 2630 x 138 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

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On display until 9 April 2012, admission is free.

Turner’s most influential critic, John Ruskin, characterised the artist’s early career as a period of studentship in which he imitated and outdid the old masters, gaining from them and from nature the foundations of his own art. But there was always much that was original and unique in Turner, whom fellow Academician, Sir Thomas Lawrence, dubbed ‘the first landscape painter in Europe’.

Having trained in his teens as an architectural draughtsman and topographical copyist, Turner first earned a living making views for the tourist and antiquarian market, and his earliest commissions were for paintings of houses and estates. His most striking public statements, however, were made with his exhibited oils and watercolours.

Personal and artistic ambition drove Turner to elevate landscape, considered a lesser genre in academic art, by using it as the setting for mythological, religious and historical subjects, and by idealising nature with the principles of the ‘picturesque’ or imbuing landscape with the drama and atmosphere of the ‘sublime’. While sometimes dividing critics, his accomplished style and unique vision brought Turner success, and made him one of the most admired and influential of Romantic artists.

This display has been devised by curator Thomas Ardill