Turner Abroad

Restrictions on European travel imposed by the Napoleonic wars (1792–1815) meant that Turner was a mature artist when he first visited Italy in 1819. Widely held to be the country of every painter’s dreams, Italy proved pivotal to his career. In Venice, Tivoli, Naples and Rome he filled dozens of sketchbooks with ravishing scenery, decaying imperial ruins and Renaissance riches. Perhaps most inspirational on Turner’s journey of discovery was the quality of the light. Henceforth sunshine permeated his palette, bathing his landscapes in a golden glow reminiscent of the work of Claude Lorrain.

The period of peace following the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 encouraged a boom in international travel. A new generation crossed the English Channel, sped on its way by steam power. Itineraries no longer focused exclusively on the aristocratic centres of the earlier Grand Tour. Turner was at the forefront of the tide of travelling artists who fed the appetite of potential tourists. The Venetian works were some of the most successful of his later years, appealing to a new class of mercantile patrons and tourists.