J. M. W. Turner has been called the most original genius in landscape painting of the 19th century. His work was highly controversial and violently attacked by some, but many regarded him as the outstanding painter of his day. “He seems to paint with tinted steam,” English painter John Constable famously wrote.
Turner had an extraordinary ability to paint light, especially as it affected his principal love, the sea. He sprang to fame with Fishermen at Sea, a 1796 work showing the influence of 17th-century Dutch marine painting. Over the next 15 years, he gradually developed a mastery, unrivaled in the history of art, of rendering the sea in all its motions and under every condition of light and weather. Sheerness as Seen from the Nore, exhibited at Turner’s own gallery in 1808, stands near the end of a decade of powerful and inventive marine paintings and is one of the masterpieces of his early period.