Turner in the South:
Rome, Naples, Florence

Cecilia Powell

Publicaton Date
May 1987
Standard Number
Yale University Press
216 pages

All writers on Turner, from Ruskin onwards, have agreed that his first visit to Italy in 1819 had a profound and long-lasting effect on his development as an artist. However, no one has studied Turner’s Italian experiences in any detail until now. In this beautifully illustrated book, Cecilia Powell remedies this omission, discussing why Turner went to Rome, Naples, and Florence and how his visits both inspired and influenced him.

Using the notes and drawings that fill the artist’s sketchbooks, the author traces Turner’s journeys in Italy on his two visits to Rome in 1819 and 1828. She compares Turner’s reactions to Rome, Naples, Florence, and many other celebrated sites to the responses of some of his great contemporaries who were equally influenced by Italy – not only artists, but also such writers as Byron, Shelley, Dickens, Stendhal, and Goethe. She focuses closely on Turner’s sketching habits and his study of Italy’s famous heritage of architecture, painting, and sculpture.

Much of the book is devoted to the oil paintings and watercolours of Italy that Turner produced back home in England. The oil paintings, usually destined for public exhibition at the Royal Academy, and the watercolours, frequently commissioned for engraving as book illustrations, were inspired by a fusion of memory and imagination that resulted in poetic visions of remarkable intensity. All these works are studied in great depth against the background of Turner’s own Italian experiences and those of his contemporaries. Setting his work and achievement in the context of the art and history of the era, the author reveals for the first time the full complexity of many of Turner’s Italian paintings; these many now be understood and appreciated in the ways that Turner himself intended.