Dear Cleo 18 11 03

Dearest Cleo

It was good to catch up this morning, brunch was excellent, and congratulations again on the 100% no doubt Waterstones wish you did that every week. I have been thinking about Classicism and Romanticism and these are my thoughts following a visit to room 15 at the National Gallery

As a young man, Turner saw Claude’s Seaport with the embarkation of the Queen of Sheba later he painted his response The Dido Building Carthage, they hang together in Room 15 of the National Gallery in accordance with the terms of Turners will.

The paintings are of similar size and both are very imposing in the small room in which they hang but there is one very big difference between them, one is a classical painting and the other a romantic painting. It is good that they hang in such close proximity because it is easy to see the differences in style by carrying out a “spot the difference” exercise between the two paintings

Figure 1 Seaport with the embarkation of the Queen of Sheba Claude

Figure 2 The Dido Building Carthage by Turner

Lets start with the skies, Classicism is famous for its order and structure and you can see this in Claude’s painting. Look at the structure of the cloud formations, the smooth graduation from blue to gold down the sky, and the lack of brush marks.

Figure 3 Claude’s Sky

Compare this with Turners Romantic sky less graduation, painterly realistic loose clouds and brush marks

Figure 4 Turner’s sky

Both pictures are sunsets but Turner’s use of darks in the painting  accentuates the lights in a sublime manner giving more glow to his sunset, Turner was particularly adept at expressive sunsets, I have included another one which gives a better indication of his loose Romantic brushwork in the sky and how he contrasts the lightness of the sky with dark objects

Figure 5 Another Turner sunset

Figure 6 Claude’s figures

In Claude’s classical painting the figures are carefully arranged and are much flatter than Turner’s because he does not fully sculpt his figures according to the light source. The Romantic Turner is fully aware of his light source and exploits the darkness of his figures to fully sculpt them even though he was probably using a much larger brush than Claude to paint the figures but Turners looser brushwork produces much more lifelike and realistic figures

Figure 5 Turner’s figures

Looking at both pictures as a whole compare the tidiness of Claude’s harbour which has almost been swept clean and the trees pruned prior to the picture being painted, whereas Turners harbour is much more untidy and rugged, the tree is much more naturalistic.

I am not sure that this is going to a good place, bedrooms should be tidy and Classical, with the Romantic and the untidiness displayed in the classically hung Romantic images on the wall, as in Room 15 at the National Gallery. An unmade bed is not Romantic, despite what Ms Emin may say.

My love as always

Mickos xx