JMW Turner is one of Britain’s best loved artists. He became known as the ‘painter of light’ due to his trademark style and use of colour in landscapes and seascapes. The Fighting Temeraire, one of his most famous oil paintings, shows the warship Temeraire being towed by a steam-powered tug on its last ever journey before being broken up. It is said to symbolise the decline of Britain’s naval power, the passing of the ‘glorious’ age of sail and the growth of ‘modern’ technology in an increasingly industrialised Britain. The industrial revolution and the history of the Royal Navy were therefore both saluted, through Turner’s revolutionary brand of romantic landscape painting.
Angelica Kauffman was a successful and influential artist of the mid-late 1700s, and one of only two female founder members of the Royal Academy of Arts, in London in 1768. Despite also being a skilled portrait and landscape artist, she is remembered primarily for her success as a history painter. This was seen as the most elite category in academic painting at the time, and an unusual choice for a female artist.
This portrait shows the flamboyant and controversial figure Sir Banestre Tarleton, a cavalry officer best known as commander of the ‘Tarleton Raiders’ during the American war of independence. It was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the leading British portrait painter of the 18th century. Reynolds was a founding member of the Royal Academy and its first President, and was knighted by King George III.