Turner & Claude at the National Gallery

The other day I found myself in London, which was (as usual) manic, stressful, crowded, and very beautiful. It helped immensely that the sun was shining, too, as it always does! One of the nicest things about being in the UK is the fact that it’s teeming with life and (that ambiguous word!) ‘culture’, of the sort to keep you busy when you’re bored/down/stumped for things to do. So I thought I’d take advantage of the numerous shows/exhibitions/shops/historical sites in some small way, and went to the National Gallery to look at their exhibition on Turner, and learn more about him (though I knew I liked him — he is one of my favourite painters).

It was a very beautiful exhibition, but it wasn’t all about Turner — it was specifically about Turner and his relationship with another painter, Claude Lorrain (whom I had never heard of). Claude painted numerous pastoral scenes, of figures from Greek and Roman myth set in idyllic landscapes, or figures from classical works (such as Ovid’s Metamorphoses), which is always quite comforting to see; I guess because it lets you feel like a little kid getting transported to an Enid Blyton-esque fairyland or the world of the Care Bears or something. I absolutely fell in love with this one painting, called Seaport with the embarkation of the Queen of Sheba:

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This painting is huge, and housed within an equally ornate and massive frame (one thing I never realised, but which interested me greatly, is how personal frames could be — I had never ever seen frames with the artist’s name or the date painted on it in beautiful italic hand before!). I don’t quite know what about this painting fascinates me (it is certainly not the Queen of Sheba, who is most unimpressive and rather disappointingly unhaughty — my favourite sarcastic query is, ‘Do you think you’re the Queen of Sheba???????’). Maybe it is the sea or the ships, possibly both, because they are amazing. This picture should definitely be seen in the canvassy flesh, because a small image on the screen does not do it justice. I love pictures where the colours pop out at you (my rudimentary and sensual pleasures!!! I would have made a terrible art historian probably!).

I liked this picture so much, I think it quite overshadowed poor Turner for me, and I also spent more money-I-do-not-have on buying a little print of it for my room. Unfortunately I cannot seem to be able to hang it up. :-(

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