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Turner, William: London from Greenwich Park

London, from Greenwich Park was painted by William Turner (1755-1851) in 1809 after he returned to England from his journey to Europe, a period during which he studied at the Louvre Museum in Paris. There, he had had the unique opportunity to see the great works of art, notably by Rapheal and Correggio, recently brought back from Italy by Napoleon. The influence of Titian (c 1488- 1576) is particularly evident in this picture, which exhibits the warmth of the colours and the rich texture typical of Turner’s large oil paintings of the early 1800s.
The view of the London area is from a bend in the river in Greenwhich Park and shows the Royal Naval Hospital and the Queen’s House in the middle ground. The subject is rather unusual as the artist preferred natural landscape and the countryside to the city, whose skyline is sketched in the background with just a bare outline of the dome of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. In fact, the elements that mostly catch the viewer’s eye are the open green space with the deer in the foreground, the sky and the river. The whitness of the clouds scattered above and the luminescences of the Thames create a pleasant chromatic effect which is matched by the contrasting hues of green of the countryside.

The buildings in the hint at human presence, which is otherwise invisible. The whole sense conveys a sense of peace and tranquility where natural and man-made elements are harmoniously balanced, a feature that characterizes Turner’s early landscape paintings. However, the artist wrote a couple of lines to accompany this painting, which clearly voice his ambivalent attitude towards the city: “Where the spires pierce the doubtful air /As gleams of hope amid a world of care.”

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