J. M. W. Turner

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Joseph Mallord William Turner RA (23 April 1775[1]–19 December 1851) was an English Romantic 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.[2] 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"[3] and his work regarded as a Romantic preface to Impressionism.


Early life

Turner was born in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, England. His father, William Turner (1738–7 August 1829), was a barber and wig maker.[4] His mother, Mary Marshall, became increasingly mentally unstable, possibly due in part to the early death of Turner's younger sister, Mary Ann Turner, in 1786. Mary Marshall died in 1804, after having been committed in 1799 to St Luke's Hospital and then to the Bethlem Royal Hospital, a mental asylum otherwise known as "Bedlam".

Possibly due to the load placed on the family by these problems, the young Turner was sent to stay with his maternal uncle, Joseph Mallord William Marshall, in Brentford in 1785, which was then a small town west of London on the banks of the River Thames. It was here that he first expressed an interest in painting. A year later he attended a school in Margate on the north-east Kent coast. By this time he had created many drawings, which his father exhibited in his shop window.

He entered the Royal Academy of Art schools in 1789, when he was only 14 years old,[5] and was accepted into the academy a year later. Sir Joshua Reynolds, president of the Royal Academy, chaired the panel that admitted him. At first Turner showed a keen interest in architecture but was advised to continue painting by the architect Thomas Hardwick (junior). A watercolour by Turner was accepted for the Summer Exhibition of 1790 after only one year's study. He exhibited his first oil painting in 1796, Fishermen at Sea, and thereafter exhibited at the academy nearly every year for the rest of his life.

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