Here’s a little bit of how Turner analyzed paintings by previous Old Masters. In this case he’s discussing Veronese’s Marriage at Cana in the Louvre. (from John Gage) So Turner is looking at a Paolo Veronese painted 1563 in Venice that was plundered by Napoleon and carted to Paris in 1797. And Turner is viewing it in the early 19th century and drawing his insights into the use of pure color unmolested by shadow areas: “primitive bright and full toned colors”. Of course, Turner isn’t merely looking at Veronese. His voracious visual eye also goes back to earlier painters. We’ll get to them momentarily. What I’m interested in is just how much of Turner’s vision was created by his incessantly inquisitive eye when looking not just at nature, but also at the treatment of it by earlier painters. Here is the description of The Wedding at Cana.
The center is occupied by a sky of pure white and blue; the architecture light toned white marble pavement and the front squares of light colored ground without the least indication, or intention of shadow across such a space. The figures are wrought in the same hightone as the sky and each figure, single or grouped, relieved from the pure white cloth on the table by the several powers of primitive bright and full-toned colors. The only mass of shade exists in the architectural arrangements and the figures under the portico; without the shadow caused by the architecture, no balance or even shade could have been effected so effectively to show his consummate powers of producing so artful an arrangement of light and color without the appearance of positive shadow or even of it being his intention.