It might seem contradictory that the landscapes of the Romantic movement (with which William Turner’s work is usually associated) are so beautiful. The Romantics of the 18th and 19th century were responsible in many ways for destroying the traditional forms that preceded them and opened the way to ugliness of modern art. Their emphasis on personal feelings and especially intense emotion of the artist is contrary to the traditional idea of painting in conformity to objective standards for the greater glory of God.
There is a desire to communicate emotion in the baroque also, but it is not the emotion of the artist that is emphasized. Rather, it is the emotion of the person painted or sculpted that is portrayed. Bernini’s St Theresa of Avila, for example, reveals her emotional state, not his.
Subjectivity is not necessarily a bad thing however: when those subjective feelings coincide with what is objectively true, there is the possibility of something good. Broadly speaking, this is the case for Romantic landscapes, provided the desire of the artist is to communicate the beauty of nature (and other things being equal). The training the artists received in the 18th and 19th centuries was essentially the same as that from the previous period: which was an adaptation of the academic method – originally developed for the study of the human person -for landscape. It transmitted the baroque visual vocabulary of form without departing from core Christian principles (although steadily becoming more and more detached from a Christian understanding of them).
As mentioned before, baroque landscape employed control of focus and intensity of colour that corresponded to the way that the human person naturally perceives the world around him. The inclination in the 17th century baroque was to represent those areas where the colour is muted in sepia. This meant that they very often gave the appearances of very deep shadow everywhere that was not the primary focus of interest. This of course, is not always appropriate. To overcome this artists started to become more sophisticated in the range of colours they used for those areas rendered tonally.
The great English artist, William Turner developed a striking answer to the problem. Drawing on the colour theory of Goethe, he developed a system in which he rendered form tonally, but in a variety of colours rather than just sepia. It is not easy to discern a strict format, but broadly (Read More)