The last time I was visiting the National Gallery in D.C. I spent some time looking at a Frederic Edwin Church painting.
It makes an interesting contrast to the Turner you mentioned, Odysseus Deriding Polyphemus (1829)
From James Hamilton’s “Turner”:
In Hesperides (Garden of the Hesperides 1806 reproduced below) Turner is chained to the making of a picture that would settle happily i the 18th century Poussinesque tradition. With Ulysses he has a new cast of mind and a new palette, in which all the colors of the spectrum find a place. Mythology goes hand in hand with scientific reality, as Nereids play about the bow wave of Ulysses’ ship, preceded by flying fish that Turner would have seen in the Mediterranean. Turner has also painted the natural phosphorescence sometimes present in exotic waters, while the sunrise is enhanced by the horses of Aurora, the goddess of the dawn.
As Hamilton notes, Hesperides is a perfect example of the influence and absorption of the classically based work of Poussin. And carried out masterfully. It was this kind of work that made his reputation. But within two decades Turner has broken into an entirely different way of painting, its revolutionary way of seeing disconcerting and confusing many of his former admirers. The soft receding blues have given way to the vibrant yellows that would characterize most of the later work, dominating every other color, the glorious radiance of the sun’s rays bouncing off the water onto the vessels and reflecting throughout the entire painting.
Here’s a detail of a few of the Nereids, how many do you count? They’re vaporous figments of the great artist’s imagination, achieved with a pure economy of means.