Research point: Claude Lorrain and J M W Turner



Here I have an opportunity to compare my own renditions of the landscapes to those of old masters, what did I do differently, how did they handle the foreground, middle ground and background ?

Im remembering my dilemma with depicting the dramatic sky without it clashing with the landscape, in this Lorrain’s painting above, the sky to me seems to be the main subject and is very dramatic and I can now see a clear difference to that of mine, I used very high contrasting values while in this Lorrain’s painting the tonal values are almost the same only the hues are very bright and strong.

The foreground is a stripe that continues out of the canvas from left and right outwards, its the darkest value with highest tonal contrasts, the ground graduating to the middle ground tying it all together.

The middle ground has the tonal contrasts toned down but there are still lot of details in them. The fore ground and middle ground consists approximately 40 percent of entire canvas and the back ground covers the rest.

The back ground is toned down a lot and the pink hue dominating it also bleeds all the way to the middle ground, what makes the back ground dramatic are the bright high key colour values. Both the background and foreground competes with the attention but on a different level and that is why there is no clashes, or so I think, the image still seems very calm and harmonical in its entireity.

In this painting the clean bright colours discribe the light and tonal contrasts the distance, in my river Ouse walkpath drawing I used the hues to discribe distance and tonal values only discribed the lights and shadows.

What solutions does this painting offer me in my dilemma of clashing of landscape with the dramatic sky ?

Solution 1. I need to make the sky dramatic by other means that Im using to depicting  the foreground landscape, in other words, if I use tonal contrast in landscape I should only use hue contrasts in the sky and this is the only way I can think of it to work. The point is, you dont need to have strong tonal contrast to depict the sky dramatic even if it appears so in real life.

Solution 2. Tie down the back ground level with the sky by toning it down  with unifying hue.

Solution 3. Fragmentate each side of the competing portions to each other. Ex. in the above painting, the background competes for your attention with bright hues, let is springle out to the foreground level such as in this painting the bright hues appear in the curves of the waves and in some pieces of clothings. Meanwhile the dark tonal contrasts also springles all the way to the background in the boats nearest to the sun, these all brings the image together in harmony.




When I think of Turners paintings the word to discribe them is drama, and the drama comes from the sky, the skies always seem overly dramatic full of liveliness and action and energy. However upon closer inspection I begin to realise that the drama is not coming from strong tonal contrasts neither in his paintings. It rather looks like ex. in the painting above that the entire landscape is swimming inside a sky, probably because of the yellowish hue dominating the entire canvas.

The foreground is droplets of stronger valued appearances popping through a fog of sunrays. The image is dramatic because its so bright bathing in sun shine. If you look at the image through your eye lashes, the background buildings and boats are almost the same tonal values as the darker parts of the sky.

The distance between the planes are depicted with contrasting values becoming stronger towards us. The horizontal blue sky line and vertical sun ray, makes sure that the ultimate focal point is the sun, the queen of the whole show and means of drama.




When I was searching for information on Turner I came accross Tom Keating’s videos on youtube : Tom Keating on Turner 

In the video Tom Keating creates The Fighting Temeraire painting in reverse, from behind the boat looking towards Turner’s point of view and let’s us into some of Turner’s painting methods.

In the above painting we have come back again to very bright high key colours in the background which is to be honoured for the dramatic effect the opposing colours cool violety blues and warm oranges and yellows next to each other, the brightness values are the same with the fighting Temeraire and foreground is depicted with strong tonal value contrasts of almost black of the steam engine boat in the foreground and the floating device on our right..


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