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Joseph Mallord William Turner
English
1775-1851

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Modern
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Joseph Mallord William Turner, or J. M. W. Turner, was an English Romantic landscape painter, watercolorist, and printmaker, known as one of the most famous and skilled artists in England and a representative of the English Academy in the first half of the 19th century. He is particularly known for his luminous, imaginative landscapes and seascapes, which had a considerable influence on the development of late Impressionist painting and are undoubtedly among the most distinguished landscape painters in the history of Western art. He was adept at depicting the fusion of steam and water, the interplay of light, air, and fire, and his inheritance of tradition blended with challenging innovation. His use of color and light is distinctly personal, ranging from clear skies to stormy winds, from epic scenes to everyday life, all of which can be seen through his brilliant technique, his use of composition is original and visually striking, and his works are often romantic.


Early Life

Turner was born in London in the spring of 1775, and his father was a barber and wig maker who was well known in the area. Old Turner was so impressed with his son's talent that when Turner was young, he displayed Turner's paintings in the window of his barbershop and boasted to people. His father later became his assistant, taking care of everything for the unsociable, eccentric, lifelong unmarried Turner. Little is known about his mother, whom Turner almost avoided mentioning. In 1786, his younger sister, who was less than six years old, died, causing significant trauma to her mother, and she was sent to an asylum until her death. Turner was sent to school with his uncle when he was ten years old, having already shown his talent for painting. The display and sale of his work in the window of his father's barber store provided a good foundation for the young Turner to paint.


Young and Promising

In 1789, Turner entered the Royal Society of Art School to study painting at fourteen. His first oil painting, Fishermen at Sea, was an instant hit. This work was heavily influenced by maritime artists such as Claude-Joseph Vernet, Peter Monamy, and Joseph Wright's night scenes. This painting could be considered Turner's first step toward becoming a successful landscape painter. It was widely acclaimed and laid the foundation for his position in the Academy, where he has exhibited works every year since then. In November 1799, Turner was elected assistant member of the Royal Academy of Arts at 24. In 1800, Turner, who had been painting landscapes, probably wanted to prove his ability to paint historical and religious subjects, so he submitted the painting, The Fifth Plague of Egypt. The painting shows the power of nature and that human power is insignificant. Two years later, he was elected as a full member of the Royal Academy of Arts and made his first trip to France and Switzerland to study the paintings of the Louvre.


Later Life and Death

Turner's long artistic career had left us with many great works and interesting stories. Most of these works were made in response to the nostalgia and patriotic pride of the emerging middle class and occasionally to the joy and excitement of the long-awaited socio-political reforms finally coming to England. In his later years, he became more eccentric and devoted himself to the exploration of form and color, with more abstract images and more daring use of composition and color, and traces of Impressionist and modern abstract painting could be seen in his later works. After the last Academy exhibition in 1850, he disappeared from his home. The housekeeper searched for him for months and finally found him at his mistress's house, where Turner had already contracted dysentery and was very ill. Turner passed away in December 1851, at the age of 76. Turner was a true master, a man whom both belonged to his time and transcended it.


Quotes

“I have no secret but hard work. This is a secret that many never learn, and they don't succeed because they don't learn it. Labor is the genius that changes the world from ugliness to beauty, and the great curse to a great blessing.”

“I don't paint so that people will understand me, I paint to show what a particular scene looks like.”

“It is only when we are no longer fearful that we begin to create.”

"Light is therefore color."

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