Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in Covent Garden, London, on April 23, 1775. Although he was a controversial figure in his time, he is currently considered to have elevated the art of landscape to the height of history painting. His style laid the foundations of impressionism. He is commonly known as “the painter of light”, renowned not only for his oil paintings but also as a watercolorist. He is considered one of the founders of English landscape watercolor painting. His talent was recognized very soon, becoming an academic at 23 years of age.
About William Turner
In 1785, after her mother was admitted to a mental hospital, when William was very young, he was sent with his maternal uncle to Brentford, a small town in the west of London, near the River Thames, where the artist first showed his interest in painting. The following year he was enrolled at the Margate School in Kent, east of London, and very soon after he exhibited his first works in his father’s business. With fourteen years of age, he entered the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds, president of the Academy at that time, took Turner under his protection, and this stimulus was definitive so that he decided to devote himself entirely to art. In 1790, with only one year of studies, a watercolor of his was accepted for the summer exhibition of the Academy that year.
Fishermen at Sea
His first oil, “Fishermen at Sea“, was exhibited in the same 1796. For the rest of his life, he exhibited regularly at the Academy. He traveled around Europe, beginning in France and Switzerland in 1802. He studied at the Louvre Museum in Paris to the great masters, in the same year. He also visited Venice. During a visit to Lyme Regis, in Dorset, England, he painted one of his great works, a stormy scene, now housed in the museum in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Emotions in William Turner
As he grew older he became very eccentric, perhaps his only friend was his father, with whom he lived for thirty years and who helped him on some occasions in his study, entering a deep depression after his death. He exhibited at the Royal Academy for the last time in 1850. It was as we said a romantic painter, interested in sublime philosophy, who knew how to portray the amazing power of Nature over man: fires, catastrophes, subsidence, natural phenomena were described with great mastery and beauty by the painter. In his canvases he notes that humanity is nothing more than a set of pawns of Nature.
Turner’s last days and his artistic perspective
Like other romantics, he considered the natural landscape as a reflection of his humor. It showed the violent power of the sea, in oils like: “Dawn after the Wreck”of 1840, or “Ship of Slaves”of 1840. Among all his remarkable work one of his most famous fabrics is: “The reckless towed dry dock”, 1839, currently housed in the National Gallery in London. He died at his home on Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London, on December 19, 1851. According to his wishes, he was buried in the Cathedral of San Pablo, next to Sir Joshua Reynolds.