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Joseph Mallord William Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner is considered one of the most innovative and sought after landscape artist in the nineteenth century. On April 23, 1775, Turner was born the son of a barber. At the age of 10, he went to live with his uncle in Brentford, Middlesex and enrolled in the Royal Academy four years later. While attending, he exhibited his watercolors and roamed the countryside looking for more material, sketching landscapes and scenery that he would then bring home to paint. His early works consisted of topographical scenes, keeping true to the exact details and precise descriptions. He exhibited oils and watercolors at the Academy at this point. In 1798, he began working for engravers as well as gained a commission to complete the works of John Robert Cozen (1752-1797), a recently deceased artist. From the experience he gained from completing these paintings and from the influence of landscape artist Richard Wilson (1714-1782), Joseph Turner began to incorporate more imagination into his work. At 24 years old (the youngest age allowable by the Royal Academy, Turner was elected a member of the Academy.

Turner’s private life was kept relatively quiet. It was rumored that Turner started an affair with a widowed woman, Sarah Danby, who may have bore him two children. At the turn of the century, his mother was committed to a mental institution due to a grave illness wherein his father moved in with him and aided Turner in his studio as an assistant. He became a full academian at the Academy in 1802 and became a professor of perspective five years later. From the time he exited the Academy training until 1802, Turner traveled extensively, visiting Scotland, Wales and the Midlands to name a few. He spent some time in Paris to study the greats at the Louvre. His improvements in style and color increased dramatically due to these exposures, especially in regards to a trip to Italy in 1815. He created numerous series paintings from his copious amounts of sketches during his travels. Turner produced significant historical, mythological, literary and narrative theme paintings in oil or watercolor, but also felt it was his duty to create paintings with passion and purpose. His maritime landscapes and architectural commissions of castles and other buildings were intricate in detail and color. During the 1820’s, he concentrated on very luminous and atmospheric scenes, utilizing light and the effects of it in his paintings.

Toward the latter part of his life, Turner focused less on the intricate details but rather the importance of lights and movement. He continued to travel for the next 15 years before his death and kept up with his unrelenting energy, producing nearly 19,000 sketches during this time. He purchased a house in Chelsea with Sophia Caroline Booth, where he remained until his death on December 19, 1851. Joseph M. W. Turner is credited with creating some of the most significant historical landscapes on record which continues to remain true today.