When Turner died in 1851 he was widely seen as the greatest landscape painter Britain had ever produced. This room contains examples of his work which could be seen in public during the decades after his death, transmitting his influence to a later generation of painters, including Whistler and Monet.
Legal wrangling over Turner’s will meant that his bequest to the nation of about a hundred finished oil paintings was eventually expanded to include all his unfinished works and about nineteen thousand watercolours and drawings. Turner’s supporter, the critic John Ruskin, made selections from this vast collection which were exhibited to the public, though not in the purpose-built gallery which Turner had hoped for.
Ruskin regarded Turner’s watercolours as the peak of his artistic output. Those shown here are displayed in a way which echoes the method Ruskin designed for the basement of the National Gallery, where artists, students and others could examine and copy them. They had a marked influence on subsequent generations of landscape painters, who strove to imitate in oils their spontaneity and fluid, transparent veils of colour.