Richard Allen: Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year, Petworth House, until May 21

FOR a contemporary landscape artist, working and exhibiting in the same place as JMW Turner is surely as intimidating as it is a great honour. The legendary painter looms large in Petworth’s legacy, having visited and worked in the manor house in the 1800s.

Having won the Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year competition last year, Richard Allen had the daunting privilege of following in Turner’s footsteps. His £10,000 commission for the National Trust is based around the lush country grounds.

“It is a battle between feeling modest and like a rampant egomaniac,” he jokes. “Back when I was studying I didn’t appreciate the old masters. Traipsing around the National Gallery always felt a bit like a chore. My appreciation for them has increased over the years, though. Maybe it’s got something to do with ageing.”

That Allen saw off the fierce competition on the Sky television programme is remarkable considering he’d “not done a huge amount” of landscape art before he entered. Having graduated from London art school Central Saint Martins with an MA in illustration, his early work was focused on still life and portraiture. In the last four years he has taken up oil painting, and, inspired by the competition, landscape work.

“My wife would probably tell you it’s a mid-life crisis,” he says of his new direction. “I actually missed the deadline for the portrait artist of the year contest. I hadn’t done any landscapes from real life at all. It was only from taking part in the programme that kicked it all off.”

Allen describes the competition as “gladiatorial combat” but says he had the edge over his rivals because of his experience of working with deadlines (Allen has contributed work for publications including The Guardian and The New York Times).

“That helped, along with not being too precious about things. A lot of people say art shouldn’t work against the clock, but I feel I benefited from that. It was pretty gruelling standing there and painting a scene for four hours, though.” Allen says he “didn’t want to make the work too expressionistic or too much about me”.

Ultimately, he pulled off a feat that seemed impossible; paying homage to Turner while retaining a distinct style and creating evocative art of his own.