Joseph Turner - the great artist that once visited Capel

J M W (Joseph Mallory William) Turner is widely regarded as one of the greatest British painters and is the only one to be currently featured on a UK bank note. At age fourteen he was the youngest ever artist to have his work shown at the Royal Academy annual exhibition. 

In 1810 he was commissioned to paint Rosehill Park in Sussex and, as part of the journey he undertook to make preliminary sketches of that property, he included Capel on his itinerary and made drawings of Somerhill House after being commissioned by the then owner of the estate. The subsequent painting measuring 36" x 48" (92cm x 122cm) was exhibited at the Royal Academy the following year under the title 'Somer Hill', near Tunbridge, the seat of W. F. Woodgate, Esq'.

Turner was known as 'the painter of light' because of his use of vibrant colours and loose brushstrokes in his landscapes and seascapes. The method of painting he established appeared 'unfinished' to many of his contemporaries although it can now be seen to pre-date the subsequent work of the French impressionists by at least three decades.

The picture of Somerhill is unmistakably in the style that Turner was by then developing with a large evening sky painted boldly with oranges and greys and reflected in the lake in the foreground. The eye is led into the painting towards the house sitting on a ridge and it is interesting to note that, by the time of this painting, Turner had already been appointed the Royal Academy's Professor of Perspective three years earlier, a post he held until 1837.

Above: The painting of Somerhill is now exhibited in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.