Room 6: Turner paints himself into history

Joseph Mallord William Turner, ‘Regulus’ 1828, reworked 1837
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Regulus 1828, reworked 1837

Even as he pressed on toward a modern aesthetic in his subjects and handling of paint, Turner reasserted his faith in the great tradition of European art. From the late 1820s he began increasingly to consider his legacy, planning for how he would be remembered and looking back over his own career.>

The foundation of the National Gallery in 1824 had ensured that a selection of important British paintings would always be seen in the context of the greatest Old Masters. Turner wanted to make certain that he would join this artistic pantheon, and made provision in his will for two of his paintings to be left to the National Gallery, where they would be hung together with works by Claude. His selection for this honour of Sun Rising through Vapour suggests that he wanted to commandeer both the elevated Claudean tradition, and the naturalism of Northern art. In his final years,  Turner often returned to the compositions created earlier in his career, making new versions of these which similarly demanded to be seen in relation to the very greatest examples of earlier landscape art.