Turner is one of the most celebrated English and Romantic landscape painters of all time. Although he was at first known for his landscape painting, Turner became famous for his rich depictions of the sea. Fascinated by the ever changing moods, Turner loved to paint seascapes in a wide range of settings—mighty British man-o’-wars returning from triumphant battles, tempestuous seas that swallowed up slaves from cargo ships, gentle, calming waters that provided life and sustenance for fishermen, and mighty waves that threatened to engulf any sailor foolish enough to dare to explore them. He particularly enjoyed juxtaposing the two and exploring the different roles that the sea played in the lives of humans. He painted in both watercolor and oil with masterful, painterly strokes, so that many of his oil paintings have the transient, delicate appearance of watercolors.
Of important note is his Sun Rising Through the Vapour (top left) because, at the time, many painters considered vapour and fog unworthy of their notice, as it obscured their lighting. Turner, however, was enamored with all aspects of light—moonlight, sunlight, sun shining through clouds, all of it. His seascapes and landscapes both reflect the high importance he placed on the treatment of light.
“No other artist could match Turner as a painter of the sea in all its moods, although it was its tempestuous side that struck the deepest chord in him; for storm and shipwreck appealed to the strain of pessimistic sectionalism in his nature” (The Sun Rises Through the Vapour: Turner’s Early Seascapes, Paul Spencer-Longhurst, p. 10).