In Pursuit of the Sublime

The notion of the Sublime was an important influence on artists. By celebrating the awe-inspiring power of Nature, Turner emphasised the dramatic possibilities of landscape; avalanches, earthquakes, thunderstorms and rough seas produced an emotional and intellectual impact comparable with that of figure and history painting.

One geographic feature absorbed Turner’s interest throughout his life—mountains. Nowhere did Mankind appear more insignificant than in the shadows of Nature’s giants. In his twenties, Turner was drawn to the subject of mountains in northern England, and later those in Wales and Scotland. The bleaker the terrain, the more intense was his imaginative response. The artist’s 1802 visit to the European Alps was a defining moment in his career, as the breathtaking spectacle of the vast chain of peaks inspired him to new feats of technical and creative prowess.