The beautiful light that suffuses many of Turner's landscapes and irradiates often from the middle of the canvas, can actually be traced back to the influence of a painter from the 17th century: Claude Gellee (Le Lorrain) was born over a century before Turner and left many pictures - some of which had made their way into British collections. Turner drew extensively from Claude's themes, colours and arrangements. It was his particular light that Turner sought in Italy and ultimately found on the banks of the river Thames.
Unlike other shows at the National Gallery, the exhibition was not crowded (especially for a Sunday) and the pictures are well lit and given enough space to be fully appreciated. A rare chance to see Turner's sketchbooks and studies.
The gallery also offers an extensive program of lectures and workshops tutored by artists and well worth seeking out.
We had booked a table in the beautifully lit, wood-paneled, National Café and enjoyed a delicious brunch there before our ticketed visit. We ordered the full breakfast and a basket of viennoiseries with unlimited tea – a lovely touch, I thought. They currently have an offer at £10 for a main course and a glass of wine in the evening. The National Café is open from 8am to 11pm, except on Sundays when it closes at 6pm.
Why: to see the best art show in town and rediscover the earliest Turners.