Masters of the English landscape

by Katie Rowe

Category: Culture vulture
October 29 2014

To celebrate the release of Mike Leigh’s biopic Mr. Turner, we take a look at the English landscapes that have influenced not only Turner, but a number of other prominent landscape artists, from the 1700s to the present day.

J.M.W. Turner (1775 – 1851)

Turner is most famous for his ethereal watercolours of the Kent coastline but he also toured all over England, producing dreamy landscapes of the Lake District, Brighton Beach, Stonehenge, Durham Castle and countless other landscapes and landmarks. 

Step into the paintings...


Margate seafront at sunset. Copyright: weegeebored

Turner described the skies along the East Kent coast as “the loveliest in all Europe”, and it’s not hard to see why. Head to the beach at sunset and you’ll be treated to a visual masterpiece as vast skies swirling with peachy clouds reverberate on the wide open waters below. You can discover more about the artist's connection with this pocket of Kent at The Turner Contemporary. Perched on Margate's seafront, it puts on a rolling programme of contemporary exhibitions, each contextualised by one or more of Turner’s works.

Petworth House

The painter was a regular guest of Petworth House in Sussex under the 3rd Earl of Egremont, who commissioned the artist to paint various scenes of Petworth, including the Capability Brown Gardens, The Red Room and The Old Library, which all feature in the new film. Visit in January and you’ll be able to experience a major exhibition showcasing a great number of Turner’s works alongside a selection of props and items of costume used in the film Mr. Turner.

Yorkshire and Durham

Turner visited Knaresborough Castle in North Yorkshire twice, in 1797 and again in 1816, sketching dramatic views of this crumbling medieval fortress overlooking the River Nidd. Around 1825, this work culminated into a wonderful watercolour of the Castle and castle mills from the river bank. Turner also first visited Durham in 1791 on a tour of the north of England. He produced a series of paintings and sketches of Durham, portraying Durham Cathedral's interior and external features.

John Constable (1776 – 1837)

A duck sits infront of Flatford Mill in Essex

If Turner is king of the sea then John Constable is most definitely the master of the rural landscape. Born in a tiny village in Suffolk, Constable's numerous depictions of Dedham Vale on the Suffolk-Essex border – the area surrounding his home – have led to this area being fondly known as Constable Country.

Step into the paintings…

Dedham Vale

Lace up your walking boots and go on a ramble through the pastoral landscapes that feature in Constable’s most famous paintings. You’ll encounter historical villages, rolling farmland and the River Stour, burbling through peaceful meadows all backed by wide-open skies at this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Covering the Essex-Suffolk border, Dedham Vale has changed little since Constable painted it, and has been the inspiration to many writers and artists in the 200 years since. 

Flatford Mill and Willy Lott's Cottage

The charming hamlet of Flatford inspired some of Constable’s most famous works. Willy Lott's House and Flatford Mill, formerly owned by Constable’s father, both appear in some of Constable’s best known paintings. Following the riverside footpath past the lock and over the bridge, to the right is National Trust's Bridge Cottage. Here you can discover more about the artist in a fascinating exhibition about his life and works, and join an insightful tour where a guide shows you copies of Constable's pictures whilst you stand next to the scene as it appears today.


Many of Constable's paintings feature Dedham, including Dedham Mill, which his father owned, and Dedham Parish Church. Constable attended the town's Grammar School, now the 'Old Grammar School' and 'Well House'. Signatures of former students are scratched into the brickwork outside – look closely and you’ll spot Constable’s. 

Joseph Wright of Derby (1734 – 1797)

Best known for his use of Chiaroscuro, an effect that emphasises the contrast of light and dark, Wright lived most of his life in his home town of Derby. It was here, in the surrounding countryside where he gained much of his inspiration. As well as earning money from painting portraits of the rising middle classes of the Midlands, he also painted various landscapes, many of which featured Derwent Valley and Dovedale - two of the Peak District's most popular sites to this very day.

Benjamin William Leader (1831 – 1923)

February Fill Dyke by Benjamin William Leader

Like Constable, Leader also had a penchant for all things pastoral. Many of his works are on display at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, including February Fill Dyke – one of the Museum’s most popular paintings. The painting depicts the countryside on a wet winter’s evening, the view is bleak but at the same time comforting, with the wet ground and bare trees warmed by the glowing sunset. You can still see incredible rural views of Worcesterhire, like this one, by exploring the artist’s native county on a countryside ramble.


L.S. Lowry (1887 – 1976)

Market Scene in a Northern Town by L.S. Lowry. Copyright: The Lowry, Salford.You can’t think of Lowry without imagining little matchstick men tottering past smoke-spouting factories, and while this modernist is best known for his panoramic cityscapes of the North West’s industrial towns, his subject matter was wider-ranging than you might think. Lancashire-born Lowry painted seascapes along the Western Lake District coast as well as industrial landscapes including Cleator Moor, Workington and Maryport. He also spent a lot of time holidaying in Berwick-upon-Tweed, rambling the town walls and sketching scenes of Berwick, Tweedmouth and Spittal. Follow in the footsteps of this great artist on The Lowry Trail where you’ll be able to compare the current landscapes with 18 panels showing reproductions of Lowry's works.


David Hockney (born 1937)

Bradford-Born Hockney’s distinctive pop-art landscapes of the Yorkshire Wolds have made him a household name in England. Hockney’s first East Yorkshire landscapes, The Road Across the Wolds and Garrowby Hill are based on the road from Bridlington to York, which Hockney travelled along almost daily for three months whilst visiting his seriously ill friend Jonathan Silver at Salts Mill. To really appreciate the Yorkshire Wolds, leave the main road behind and explore the many narrow by-roads that take you through peaceful countryside, secluded villages and big skies, just like Hockney did. 

Discover more of England's famous landscapes...


Katie Rowe

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