Turner's Classicism

Turner modelled his approach on the painters of the past, particularly Claude Lorrain (1600–1682): his engagement with the Old Masters is a recurring theme in his work. His attitude to his artistic precursors was both admiring and competitive. The paintings exhibited by Turner at the Royal Academy borrow from a range of art-historical sources. His realisation of Classical architecture indicates both his skill as a draughtsman and an awareness of antiquarian studies.

The reinvention of Classicism was part of a wider campaign to raise the status of landscape painting. Turner demonstrated that the genre could contain the same intellectual power as history painting. Almost simultaneously he developed a modern pastoral vision based within a quintessentially English countryside. This new way of thinking about and understanding landscape became Turner’s personal aesthetic statement and is one of his greatest contributions to British art.