J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) is the most masterly of British painters. His work exploits the great traditions of European painting, while anticipating the development of modern art in the twentieth century. As a Romantic, he was from his earliest works sensitive to the natural dramas found in land and seascapes, though increasingly light and colour alone became all-important to him. He travelled through England, France, Italy and Switzerland, and his views are possibly the most imaginative evocations of these countries ever painted.
The essay by William Gaunt (1900-80), an acknowledged authority on British art, was originally published in 1971. For this new edition Robin Hamlyn, Research Assistant in the Historic British Collection at the Tate Gallery, has added notes to the colour plates, for which he has drawn extensively on the most recent research on Turner, and many black and white illustrations.