Europa and the Bull, about 1840–50, Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775–1851), oil on canvas
Turner was the most renowned British 19th-century landscape painter. As his style matured, colored light and atmospheric movement became the true subjects of his paintings. Here, a story from Greek mythology is described with swaths of color suggesting land, sea, air, and figures. Zeus, who transformed himself into a white bull to seduce the princess Europa, is described by only a few strokes of the artist’s brush—a white blur carrying a vaguely defined figure out to sea. This canvas is almost certainly unfinished. Turner often took such sketchy pictures to the Royal Academy on the day before the opening of the annual exhibition and completed them there, transforming indefinite masses into more specific compositions.