Page last updated at 05:56 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 06:56 UK

Turner and his Welsh inspiration

The Transept of Ewenny Priory, Glamorganshire  (National Museum of Wales)
Turner's watercolour of Ewenny Priory used perspective to create a sense of overwhelming atmosphere and scale National Museum of Wales, Cardiff

Landscapes of Wales by one of England's greatest artists and the paintings that inspired them are to go on show together for the first time.

JMW Turner's Dolbadarn Castle, Harlech Castle and Ewenny Priory will be displayed alongside works by Italian masters and Welshman Richard Wilson.

More than 100 masterpieces are included in Turner and the Masters which opens at London's Tate Britain next month.

The co-curator said the Welsh works were "crucial" to Turner's career.

Interior View of the Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli © The Trustees of the British Museum
The picture is paired with this famous etching by Italian artist Piranesi

Ian Warrell, curator of 18th and 19th Century British Art at the Tate, said it was during Turner's five visits to Wales in the 1790s that the London-born artist formed the foundation and inspiration for his later work.

Turner was "particularly devoted to the Welsh landscape because of its dramatic mountains and the stunning scenery", said Mr Warrell.

"He knew it was something that he could use in his work, and of course he did to great effect."

The series of early visits to Wales "were memorised and he was able to draw on them for the rest of his career."

Turner also had a very close affiliation with the Welsh painter Richard Wilson, an early pioneer of the kind of landscape painting he was to pursue.

"There wasn't any other painter like Richard Wilson at that time. Turner very much admired Richard Wilson," said Mr Warrall.

On one of his Welsh visits Turner even made a made a pilgrimage to Wilson's Monmouthshire birthplace and he even had a notebook in which he made Wilson-like art copies.

JMW Turner Self-Portrait c1799 Tate
1775: Joseph Mallord William Turner born Covent Garden, London
1789: Turner's first visit to Wales
1796: Turner exhibits his first oil painting at the Royal Academy, Fishermen at Sea
1799: His second visit to Wales
1819: Turner's first visit to Italy
1822: Commissioned by George IV to paint a large picture to mark the Battle of Trafalgar
1834: Turner paints the burning of the Houses of Parliament
1851: Dies at his home in Chelsea and is buried at St Paul's Cathedral

One of the duo of works exhibited at Tate Britain will be Wilson's painting of Pembroke Town and Castle, loaned from the National Museum of Wales, alongside Turner's Harlech Castle, painted 30 years later.

Turner's composition mimics the composition of Wilson's, taking his poetic composition to even greater extremes.

Also in the Welsh section of the exhibition will be Turner's dramatic Dolbadarn Castle in Snowdonia, showing the ruined fortress in the wilds of north Wales.

This is paired with another rugged mountainous scene by the Italian artist Salvator Rosa, whose painting again inspired the English artist.

Turner painted Dolbadarn Castle at a crucial moment in his career, just months after he was elected as an associate member of the Royal Academy.

Mr Worrall said they believe the painting represents Turner's interpretation of the suffering inflicted by England's Edward 1 on the Welsh.

The third Welsh Turner included in the exhibition is his watercolour of the Transept of Ewenny Priory in south Wales.

It is paired with a famous etching of Roman ruins by the 18th Century Italian Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

Turner learned from Piranesi how to use exaggerated perspective to create a sense of overwhelming atmosphere and scale.

When Turner's work was showing at the Royal Academy in 1797, a review said the work was "one of the grandest drawings we have ever seen...and equal to the best pictures of Rembrandt".

Turner and the Masters is at Tate Britain, London, from 23 September 2009 to 31 January 2010.

Turner's Harlech Castle
Turner's Harlech Castle, from Twgwyn Ferry, Summerís Evening Twilight was painted in 1799 Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

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