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Joseph Turner – British Great Artist Life

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 2:45 AM
Joseph Turner
Joseph Turner was one of the greatest of all British artists. He worked extremely quickly, but the brilliance and originality of his painting is unrivalled. By the age of 30 he was a successful artist and a prominent member of the Royal Academy, yet he remained a gruff, reclusive and intensely secretive character, renowned for his unkempt dress and meanness with money.

Brought up in London, he was fascinated by the Thames: water and ships were always his strongest inspiration. The river-side area of the city remained his home base all his life, but he travelled extensively-throughout Britain and Europe in search of new dramatic landscapes to paint. When he died at the age of 76, he left a vast legacy of over 20,000 works.

Key Dates

1775 born in Covent Garden, London
1790 exhibits first painting at RA
1799 elected associate member of RA
1800 mother admitted to Bethlem Hospital for the insane
1802 elected as full member of RA. First trip to continent
1807 made professor of perspective at RA
1819 first trip to Italy made 1,500 sketches in two months
1828 second visit to Italy
1829 death of father
1833 meets Mrs. Booth, his mistress for life
1838 paints The Figlithrg Tenieraire
1843 Ruskin's Modern Painters published: a defence of Turner
1844 paints Rain, Steam and Speed
1851 dies in Chelsea

The Joseph Turner’s life


Genius at the Acaderny

The artist and his father were devoted to each other. 'Daddy' encouraged his son's gift from the beginning, and exhibited Turner's youthful drawings in his barber shop. He also encouraged the carefulness with money for which the artist became renowned. When Daddy died in 1829, Turner said he felt as if he had lost an only childDespite his abrupt, unconventional manner and daringly original style of painting, Turner was proud of his prominence in the Royal Academy the home of Britain's artistic establishment.

Joseph Mallord William Turner was born on 23 April 1775. His father was a barber and his mother the daughter of a butcher. They lived above his father's shop in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, and an area then, as now, closely associated with the arts.

Little is known of his mother except that she was prone to furious rages, which later led to in-sanity. When Turner was 15 she was put into the Bethlem Hospital for the insane and died four years later in a private asylum. Turner never spoke of her in his adult life.

With his father, on the other hand, Turner had a very close relationship. 'Dad never praised me for anything but saving a halfpenny, he once re-marked. Nor was this praise wasted, because Turner grew up to be both parsimonious and extremely astute in all his financial dealings. In fact his father did encourage him in other ways, not least by exhibiting his drawings in his shop.

Turner entered the RA school at the age of 14 and became a professor there at 32. Fie remained fiercely loyal to the Academy throughout his life, referring to it as his mother. His own mother had died in a mental asylum when he was 19
As a boy Turner came to love the river, which was within a few minutes' walk of his home. The restless water of the Thames, the ever-shifting play of light on its surface, fog and mist rising from it to veil the ships' sails and rigging, as well as the business of the dockside, were scenes which haunted him all his life. He saw something of the country-side too when he was sent, for the sake of his health, to stay with his butcher uncle in Brentford, where he attended the Free School.

Turner received no definite education in art. Such training as he did pick up, however, cornbined with his great natural talent, were enough to qualify him, at the age of 14, for free tuition at the Royal Academy school. The following year, 1790, he successfully submitted a drawing for the Academy's annual exhibition. During the next ten years he not only worked hard, but learnt fast, and soon attracted both critical approval and patrons.

While at the RA school, Turner earned money in the evenings by copying other artists' work at the 'academy' run by Dr Mourn, who sketched this portrait (1' his talented employee in 1796. In the same year, Turner exhibited his first oil painting at the RA.While at the Royal Academy he studied with Thomas Malton, who painted detailed water-col-ours of architectural subjects. And for three years from 1794, Turner worked at the 'Monro School', copying other artists' works for 2/6 an evening. Among the artists whose work he copied was JR Cozens. Turner's contemporary (and rival) Thomas Girtin copied the outlines; Turner added water-colour washes. Cozens' wild, romantic landscapes from Switzerland and Italy seem to have inspired the young artist to see and paint such scenes himself. By 1798 he was able to say that he had more commissions than he could fulfil.


In stature Turner was short, and he later grew stocky and heavy, though he never lost his formidable energy. His face was dominated by a prominent nose and a pair of vigilant eyes. Most portraits show him to have been somewhat dishevelled, probably the result of his lifelong habit of saving money by buying cheap clothes. In manner he was abrupt and taciturn, even morose, and only revealed the warmer side of his character with people he knew very well. He allowed an air of mystery to surround his working methods and he was notoriously secretive about his private life.

Writer - A Marshall Cavendish

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