How do you follow up on the blockbuster that was the Da Vinci exhibition? The National Gallery is pinning its hope on arguably Britain's most famous painter — Turner — and how he was inspired by the works of Claude Lorrain (known as Claude).
Claude was a master of exquisitely detailed landscapes and their interplay with sunlight. He was also renowned for focussing on the natural setting of his paintings, with his cast of characters relegated to a sideshow in his works.
This exhibition charts how Claude's paintings influenced Turner. In his earlier works it almost seems as if Turner is merely copying Claude's style, yielding relatively lifeless imitations. But as Turner progressed as an artist, he developed the style that he remains famous for.
The crucial moment was when Turner decided to forgo detail to capture the impact of sunlight on the landscape. He manages to paint experiences — what it's like to stare directly at the sun and the impact this has on the viewer's vision, for example — long before Impressionism took on the same challenge. The similarities with Claude's work are still there, but the paintings diverge into two distinctive styles.
There is no doubt that both Claude and Turner were brilliant artists but the goal of this exhibition is to explore how the former influenced the latter. The National Gallery has done a fantastic job of conveying this journey.
Turner Inspired: In the light of Claude is on at the National Gallery until 5 June 2012. Tickets are £12 for adults, concessions available.