Joseph Mallord William "J. M. W."
Turner, RA (1775-1851) was an English Romanticist landscape
painter, watercolourist, and printmaker. Turner was considered a controversial
figure in his day, but is now regarded as the artist who elevated landscape
painting to an eminence rivalling history painting.
Although renowned for his oil paintings, Turner is also one of the greatest
masters of British watercolour landscape painting. He is commonly known as "the
painter of light" and his work is regarded as a Romantic preface to
Born in London during the month of April, 1775, Joseph Mallord William Turner is
considered by many as one of the foremost English artists of all time. Turner
produced a significant number of works over his lifetime adding up to over 550 oil
paintings, 2,000 superbly detailed watercolors, and around 30,000 sketches and
drawings on paper.
Joseph Mallord William Turner showed natural talent at a young age. Entirely
self-taught, he showed prowess in creating sketches of towns and landscapes, which
would influence his life's work. He received much support from his father who
exhibited his architectural drawings at his workshop, selling them for a few
shillings each. Meanwhile, his mother suffered from a mental illness forcing his
parents to routinely send him to stay with relatives. These travels provided Turner
the opportunity to gain worldly experience.
In 1789, Turner began his formal training at the famous Royal Academy Schools.
His progression at the academy was noteworthy, most notably the rare honor that was
bestowed on him at the young age of 15. He had one of his paintings (A View of the
Archbishop's Palace) displayed at the academy's annual exhibit. He became a full
member of the Royal Academy by the age of twenty-six, and just five short years
later was elected Professor of Perspective. He remained active in the Royal Academy
throughout his life, serving various functions, culminating with his tenure as
acting president in 1845.
Turner's artistic style evolved as he grew older. His early paintings were of
romantic subjects, emphasizing natural colors and light. His works consisted mainly
of landscapes and architecture, which he believed could convey a full range of
artistic meaning. In the 1800s, he began to shift his focus away from details and
more on color and luminosity. This new style became the signature trait of his
work, and distinguished his place in the lore of England's great painters. In his
later years, he began to focus on the subject of modern technology such as ships
and railroads, which became some of his most famous productions.
Some of the most famous Joseph Mallord William Turner paintings include:
- Calais Pier (1803)
- Dido Building Carthage (1815)
- The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up (1839)
- Rain, Steam and Speed -- The Great Western Railway (1844)
- Fishermen at Sea (1796)
- The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (1835)
- The Grand Canal, Venice (1835)
Joseph Mallord William Turner paintings were last exhibited in 1850, less than a
year before he finally passed at the age of 76. The devotion he showed toward his
craft is unparalleled to any other artist of his time. Turner donated the small
fortune he amassed over the years and his collection of paintings to his true love,
the country of England. Due to his great fame and generosity to his country, his
request to be buried in St. Paul's Cathedral was honored. In present day, the
majority of his work can be found in London, at either the Tate Gallery or the