Joseph Mallord William Turner

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Joseph Mallord William Turner

English Romantic painter, draftsman and watercolorist

Born 4/23/1775 - Died 12/19/1851

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Joseph Mallord William Turner (born in Covent Garden, London on April 23, 1775 [exact date disputed], died December 19, 1851) was an English Romantic landscape artist. His father, William Turner, was a wig-maker who later became a barber. His mother, Mary Marshall, a housewife, became increasingly mentally unstable during his early years, perhaps in part due to the early death of Turner's younger sister in 1786. She died in 1804, having been committed to a mental asylum.

Possibly due to the load placed on the family by these problems, the young Turner was sent in 1785 to stay with his uncle on his mother's side in Brentford, which was then a small town west of London on the banks of the Thames. It was here that he first expressed an interest in painting. A year later he went to school in Margate in Kent to the east of London in the area of the Thames estuary. At this time he had been creating many paintings, which his father exhibited in his shop window.

He was accepted into the Royal Academy of Art when he was only 15 years old. At first Turner showed a keen interest in architecture but was advised to keep to painting by the architect Thomas Hardwick (junior). Sir Joshua Reynolds, the president of the Royal Academy at that time, chaired the panel that admitted him. A watercolour of his was accepted for the Summer Exhibition of 1790 after only one year's study. He exhibited his first oil painting in 1796. Throughout the rest of his life, he regularly exhibited at the academy.

He is commonly known as "the painter of light". Although renowned for his oils, Turner is also regarded as one of the founders of English watercolour landscape painting.

One of his most famous oil paintings is The fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, painted in 1839, which hangs in the National Gallery, London. See also The Golden Bough.

Turner travelled widely in Europe, starting with France and Switzerland in 1802 and studying in the Louvre in Paris in the same year. He also made many visits to Venice during his lifetime. He never married, although he had a mistress, Sarah Danby, by whom he had two daughters.

As he grew older, Turner became more eccentric. He had few close friends, except for his father, who lived with him for thirty years, eventually working as his studio assistant. His father died in 1829, which had a profound effect on him, and thereafter he was subject to bouts of depression.

He died in his house in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea on 19 December 1851. At his request he was buried in St Paul's Cathedral, where he lies next to Sir Joshua Reynolds. His last exhibition at the Royal Academy was in 1850.

  • Derived from an entry on the artist in the Wikipedia.

  • Further Resources:
  • Read Stefan Brodski's insightful letter on J.M.W. Turner, giving the measure of his greatness as a landscape painter.

  • Personal

    buried of

    championed of

    influence on

    patronized by

    • Beckford, William (1760-1844)


    associate member of

    • Royal Academy of Art

    buried at

    • St Paul's Cathedral

    30 January 2018 to 13 May 2018

    Thomas Cole's Journey

    1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028

    Celebrated as one of America's preeminent landscape painters, Thomas Cole (1801–1848) was born in northern England at the start of the industrial revolution, immigrated to the United States in his youth, and traveled extensively throughout England and Italy as a young artist. He returned to America to create some of his most ambitious works and inspire a new generation of American painters. This exhibition will examine for the first time the artist's career in relation to his European roots and travels, establishing Cole as a major figure in 19th-century landscape art within a global context.

    Turner, picture
    Battle of Trafalgar

    Open view May 5th
    and will close June 4

    Image courtesy of Don Kurtz

    Image courtesy of Don Kurtz