Monday, May 30, 2011


    Bay of Baiae, JMW Turner, 1823, Tate Gallery

Turner is often said to be a precursor of the Impressionists.  There is some truth to this, but not much.  The Impressionists were literalists.  They did not paint what they could not see.  Turner, on the other hand, while perfectly capable of the most literal interpretations, loved injecting imaginary figures, geography and events into his paintings.  In the exquisite painting above, that's no fashionable picnic party on the left, its Apollo and the Sibyl.  You don't see classical Gods cavorting across the canvases of Monet or Renoir. The idealized landscape was what they fought against.

Turner was one of a kind.  His early work was very much in the tradition of Claude, but after he visited Italy in 1817, Turner struck out on his own path. 

In any case, Turner doesn't really reproduce.  I've seen the painting at the Tate and it has a lightness and color you don't see here.