J M William Turner Biography | Oil Paintings
4-23-1775 London, ENG - 12-19-1851 Chelsea, ENGBack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Joseph Mallord William Turner entered the Royal Academy School in 1789 at the age of 14. Although he possessed the natural talent of a child prodigy, Turner also had the intelligence and the patience to attend courses at the Royal Academy in drawing, engraving, watercolor, topography, and painting, all studies that paved the way to his landscape painting.
Joseph Mallord William Turner began exhibiting the following year when he received a rare honor, one of his oil paintings was exhibited at the Royal Academy. By the time he was 18 he had his own art studio. Before he was 20, printsellers were eagerly buying his drawings for reproduction.
Turner A Radical Turning Point in Landscape Painting.
He traveled all over England, filling sketchbooks with drawings of scenery and landmarks which later would provide the raw material for his oils and watercolors. From his earliest works on, as in Buttermere Lake with Part of Cromack Water, a Shower, Turner showed an intense interest in the effects of light on water. The rainbow, created by the colors of the spectrum produced by the sun's rays on suspended particles of rain, is a quintessential example of the wonders of nature that so appealed to Turner.
J.M.W. Turner was a great admirer of nature and the traditional masters like Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin, and the Dutch painters. He was also a step ahead of the group of English landscape painters. Stirred by the sight of the snow-capped Alps during a trip to Switzerland in 1803 (the first of his many journeys to continental Europe), Turner experienced the Romantic emotion of the “sublime”. He subsequently began his pictorial research into atmospheric effects and the wonders of nature, departing from the analytical position of John Constable and Canaletto before him, to communicate feelings and emotions.
J.M.W. Turner, Looking to the Past to Paint the Future.
Turner was particularly attached to this painting Dido Building Carthage, which he considered his absolute masterpiece. In the first draft of his will, he indicated that he was to be buried wrapped in this canvas. Despite many offers, he never wanted to sell it and eventually donated it to the National Gallery in London, on the condition that it be displayed beside a seascape by Claude Lorrain that had evidently inspired him. Classical themes are frequent in Turner's work, and he often chose historic events or literary and narrative scenes as the “content” of his landscapes. Moreover, when he showed his paintings in the Royal Academy exhibits he accompanied them with quotations from ancient and modern poets.
J.M.W. Turner made three trips to Venice, in 1819, 1833, and 1840, and he cherished the memory of this city with its sparkling water, melancholy, and splendor. Juliet and her Nurse was painted during his second trip to Venice. It must be remembered that he also had a conflicting relationship with Canaletto, an artist pivotal in the birth of English landscape painting and from whom Turner chose to distance himself. Attracted by the force of the primordial elements, Turner often contemplates natural energy with a mixture of enthusiasm and anguish. In artworks like this, Clouds at Sunset, his painting verges on abstraction.
J.M.W. Turner Father of Impressionism, A one-man Art Movement.
He collaborated with Thomas Girtin on a three-year watercolor project but later turned to oils. After his first trip to Italy in 1819 his paintings showed a marked Classical influence, and following his second trip, his art entered its greatest phase with paintings such as Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway, which was the precursors of Impressionism. If the definition of Impressionism is characterized by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities, ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles, then Turner is the genius painter that should be credited with its invention and style. The varied amount of works that fit this description is numerous. J.M.W. Turner was ahead of everyone by at least 75 years before the term Impressionism was born. Since he was the only one painting like this, unfortunately, you can not have a one person art movement, but, all the credit should go to him and to a lesser degree to Delacroix. The true father or shall we say the grandfather of Impressionism. In fact, had he been born a little later, and painter the same way he did, it would not be surprising to find an art movement called Turnerism.
Inspired by a dramatic contemporary event, Slave Traders Throwing the Dead and Dying into the Sea - The Typhoon Approaches caused a sharp rift between the critics and the public. The painting was based on a poem that described a slave ship caught in a typhoon, and on the true story of the slave ship Zong whose captain, in 1781, had thrown overboard sick and dying slaves so that he could collect insurance money available only for slaves “lost at sea.” Turner captures the horror of the event and terrifying grandeur of nature through hot, churning color and light that merge sea and sky. The critic John Ruskin, the first owner of Slave Ship, wrote, “If I were reduced to rest Turner’s immortality upon any single work, I should choose this.” Ruskin described it as “the noblest sea ever painted by man”. The fiery sunset, typical of Turner's mature period, creates a sinister atmosphere.
A prolific artist, Joseph Mallord William Turner ranks with Constable as one of the greatest British landscape painters of all time and his career marks a turning point in the development of modern British art. At the center of the critical debate, appreciated by collectors, and a leading figure at the Royal Academy, Turner looked to the art of the past, comparing it to the new possibilities offered by technological and mechanical innovations. During the final phase of his career when he sought to depict rain and steam, the artist who, in his youth, had portrayed Hannibal and Aeneas, now painted a speeding steam train for the first time in history.
To modern eyes, looking back over the last hundred years, when painters removed all subject except the paint, Turner's work is not only great but way ahead of its time, inspiring many future world artists. A solitary, rather reclusive man who never married, Joseph Mallord William Turner bequeathed over 300 oils and some 20,000 watercolors and drawings to the nation.
In 2006, Giudecca, La Donna Della Salute and San Giorgio, a view of Venice was auctioned for US$35.8 million by Las Vegas casino magnate Stephen Wynn. In 2010, the J. Paul Getty Museum purchased Turner's final painting of Rome completed in 1839, Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino, at an auction in London for $44.9 million.
The artist's photo at the top left is from a daguerreotype by J E Mayall taken in 1849, 2 years before Turner's death.
Look at our THEN & NOW section. See the actual present-day locations where famous artists such as J.M.W. Turner painted their famous museum oil paintings. We travel the world, tracked down the locations where the artist set up their easel and photographed it, as it appears today, with side by side comparisons between the original oil paintings and present-day location.
Art Movement: Romanticism.
Artists Influencing J.M.W. Turner: Thomas Malton, Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin.
He Traveled To Italy, France, Switzerland.
Painters J.M. William Turner Influenced: Claude Monet.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.