Claude-Joseph Vernet was the most celebrated French view painter of the 18th century. He specialised in depictions of calm ports and stormy seas. In 1734, he travelled to Rome, where he spent almost twenty years. There he earned an international reputation, especially with the British visiting Italy on their Grand Tour. Vernet returned to France in 1753 and continued to work for royal and aristocratic patrons across Europe.
A Landscape at Sunset and A Shipwreck in Stormy Seas are two of Vernet’s greatest paintings. The sunset is one of utter tranquillity: in a sheltered harbour, fishermen land the day’s catch and the setting sun is reflected in the rippling water. The shipwreck, by contrast, is high drama as flashes of lightning cleave the sky and waves thunder towards the shore. Inspired by the tempestuous paintings of Salvator Rosa, Vernet was also influenced by the serene, classical landscapes of Claude and Poussin, whose works are also on display in this room.