J. M. W. Turner

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J. M. W. Turner

RA
Joseph Mallord William Turner Self Portrait 1799.jpg
Self-portrait, oil on canvas, c.1799
Born
Joseph Mallord William Turner

(1775-04-23)23 April 1775
Died19 December 1851(1851-12-19) (aged 76)
Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, England
Resting place St Paul's Cathedral
NationalityEnglish
Education Royal Academy of Arts
Known forPaintings
Movement Romanticism

Joseph Mallord William Turner RA (23 April 1775 19 December 1851), known contemporarily as William Turner, [lower-alpha 1] was an English Romantic painter, printmaker and watercolourist. He is known for his expressive colourisations, imaginative landscapes and turbulent, often violent marine paintings.

Romanticism period of artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that started in 18th century Europe

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.

Printmaking activity or occupation of making prints from plates or blocks

Printmaking is the process of creating artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints that have an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable of producing multiples of the same piece, which is called a print. Each print produced is considered an "original" work of art, and is correctly referred to as an "impression", not a "copy". Often impressions vary considerably, whether intentionally or not. The images on most prints are created for that purpose, perhaps with a preparatory study such as a drawing. A print that copies another work of art, especially a painting, is known as a "reproductive print".

Watercolor painting Type of painting method using water-based solutions

Watercolor or watercolour, also aquarelle, is a painting method in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-based solution. Watercolor refers to both the medium and the resulting artwork. Aquarelles painted with water-soluble colored ink instead of modern water colors are called "aquarellum atramento" by experts. However, this term has been more and more passing out of use.

Contents

Turner was born in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, to a modest lower middle-class family. He lived in London all his life, retaining his Cockney accent and assiduously avoiding the trappings of success and fame.

Maiden Lane, Covent Garden street in Covent Garden, London

Maiden Lane is a street in Covent Garden, London, that runs from Bedford Street in the west to Southampton Street in the east. The painter J. M. W. Turner was born in the street in 1775.

A child prodigy, Turner studied at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1789, enrolling when he was 14, and exhibited his first work there at 15. During this period, he also served as an architectural draftsman. He earned a steady income from commissions and sales, which due to his troubled, contrary nature, were often begrudgingly accepted. He opened his own gallery in 1804 and became professor of perspective at the academy in 1807, where he lectured until 1828, although he was viewed as profoundly inarticulate. He traveled to Europe from 1802, typically returning with voluminous sketchbooks.

Royal Academy of Arts art institution in London, England

The Royal Academy of Arts (RA) is an art institution based in Burlington House on Piccadilly in London. It has a unique position as an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects. Its purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate.

Perspective (graphical) Form of graphical projection where the projection lines converge to one or more points

Perspective in the graphic arts is an approximate representation, generally on a flat surface, of an image as it is seen by the eye. The two most characteristic features of perspective are that objects appear smaller as their distance from the observer increases; and that they are subject to foreshortening, meaning that an object's dimensions along the line of sight appear shorter than its dimensions across the line of sight.

Intensely private, eccentric and reclusive, Turner was a controversial figure throughout his career. He did not marry, but fathered two daughters, Eveline (1801–1874) and Georgiana (1811–1843), by his housekeeper Sarah Danby. He became more pessimistic and morose as he got older, especially after the death of his father, after which his outlook deteriorated, his gallery fell into disrepair and neglect, and his art intensified. He lived in squalor and poor health from 1845, and died in London in 1851 aged 76. Turner is buried in Saint Paul's Cathedral, London.

Eccentricity (behavior)

Eccentricity is unusual or odd behavior on the part of an individual. This behavior would typically be perceived as unusual or unnecessary, without being demonstrably maladaptive. Eccentricity is contrasted with normal behavior, the nearly universal means by which individuals in society solve given problems and pursue certain priorities in everyday life. People who consistently display benignly eccentric behavior are labeled as "eccentrics".

He left behind more than 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolours, and 30,000 works on paper. [1] He had been championed by the leading English art critic John Ruskin from 1840, and is today regarded as having elevated landscape painting to an eminence rivalling history painting. [2]

John Ruskin 19th-century English writer and art critic

John Ruskin was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany and political economy.

History painting genre in painting defined by historical matter

History painting is a genre in painting defined by its subject matter rather than artistic style. History paintings usually depict a moment in a narrative story, rather than a specific and static subject, as in a portrait. The term is derived from the wider senses of the word historia in Latin and Italian, meaning "story" or "narrative", and essentially means "story painting". Most history paintings are not of scenes from history, especially paintings from before about 1850.

Biography

Early life

The house in Maiden Lane where Turner was born, c.1850s DV307 no.70 House where Turner was born, from a print.png
The house in Maiden Lane where Turner was born, c.1850s

Joseph Mallord William Turner was born on 23 April 1775 and baptised on 14 May. [lower-alpha 2] He was born in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, in London, England. [3] His father, William Turner (1745–21 September 1829), was a barber and wig maker. [5] His mother, Mary Marshall, came from a family of butchers. [6] A younger sister, Mary Ann, was born in September 1778 but died in August 1783. [7]

Covent Garden district in London, England

Covent Garden is a district in London, on the eastern fringes of the West End, between St Martin's Lane and Drury Lane. It is associated with the former fruit-and-vegetable market in the central square, now a popular shopping and tourist site, and with the Royal Opera House, which itself may be referred to as "Covent Garden". The district is divided by the main thoroughfare of Long Acre, north of which is given over to independent shops centred on Neal's Yard and Seven Dials, while the south contains the central square with its street performers and most of the historical buildings, theatres and entertainment facilities, including the London Transport Museum and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

Turner's mother showed signs of mental disturbance from 1785 and was admitted to St Luke's Hospital for Lunatics in Old Street in 1799 and was moved in 1800 to Bethlem Hospital, [8] a mental asylum, where she died in 1804. [lower-alpha 3] Turner was sent to his maternal uncle, Joseph Mallord William Marshall, in Brentford, then a small town on the banks of the River Thames west of London. The earliest known artistic exercise by Turner is from this period—a series of simple colourings of engraved plates from Henry Boswell's Picturesque View of the Antiquities of England and Wales. [9]

Around 1786, Turner was sent to Margate on the north-east Kent coast. There he produced a series of drawings of the town and surrounding area that foreshadowed his later work. [10] By this time, Turner's drawings were being exhibited in his father's shop window and sold for a few shillings. [6] His father boasted to the artist Thomas Stothard that: "My son, sir, is going to be a painter". [11] In 1789, Turner again stayed with his uncle who had retired to Sunningwell in Berkshire (now part of Oxfordshire). A whole sketchbook of work from this time in Berkshire survives as well as a watercolour of Oxford. The use of pencil sketches on location, as the foundation for later finished paintings, formed the basis of Turner's essential working style for his whole career. [9]

Many early sketches by Turner were architectural studies or exercises in perspective, and it is known that, as a young man, he worked for several architects including Thomas Hardwick, James Wyatt and Joseph Bonomi the Elder. [12] By the end of 1789, he had also begun to study under the topographical draughtsman Thomas Malton, specialised in London views. Turner learned from him the basic tricks of the trade, copying and colouring outline prints of British castles and abbeys. He would later call Malton "My real master". [13] Topography was a thriving industry by which a young artist could pay for his studies.

Royal Academy

Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino, 1839 Joseph Mallord William Turner (British - Modern Rome-Campo Vaccino - Google Art Project.jpg
Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino , 1839

Turner entered the Royal Academy of Art in 1789, aged 14, [14] and was accepted into the academy a year later by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Turner showed an early interest in architecture, but was advised by Thomas Hardwick to focus on painting. His first watercolour, A View of the Archbishop's Palace, Lambeth was accepted for the Royal Academy summer exhibition of 1790 when Turner was 15.

As an academy probationer, Turner was taught drawing from plaster casts of antique sculptures. From July 1790 to October 1793, his name appears in the registry of the academy over a hundred times. [15] In June 1792, he was admitted to the life class to learn to draw the human body from nude models. [16] Turner exhibited watercolours each year at the academy while painting in the winter and travelling in the summer widely throughout Britain, particularly to Wales, where he produced a wide range of sketches for working up into studies and watercolours. These particularly focused on architectural work, which used his skills as a draughtsman. [15] In 1793, he showed the watercolour titled The Rising Squall – Hot Wells from St Vincent's Rock Bristol (now lost), which foreshadowed his later climatic effects. [17] Cunningham in his obituary of Turner wrote that it was: "recognised by the wiser few as a noble attempt at lifting landscape art out of the tame insipidities...[and] evinced for the first time that mastery of effect for which he is now justly celebrated". [18]

Fishermen at Sea, exhibited in 1796 was the first oil painting exhibited by Turner at the Royal Academy. Joseph Mallord William Turner - Fishermen at Sea - Google Art Project.jpg
Fishermen at Sea , exhibited in 1796 was the first oil painting exhibited by Turner at the Royal Academy.

In 1796, Turner exhibited Fishermen at Sea , his first oil painting for the academy, of a nocturnal moonlit scene of the Needles off the Isle of Wight, an image of boats in peril. [19] Wilton said that the image: "Is a summary of all that had been said about the sea by the artists of the 18th century". [20] and shows strong influence by artists such as Claude Joseph Vernet, Philip James de Loutherbourg, Peter Monamy and Francis Swaine, who was admired for his moonlight marine paintings. This particular painting cannot be said to show any influence of Willem van de Velde the Younger, as not a single nocturnal scene is known by that painter. Some later work, however, was created to rival or complement the manner of the Dutch artist. The image was praised by contemporary critics and founded Turner's reputation, as both an oil painter and a painter of maritime scenes. [21]

Early career

Charles Turner, c. 1840, Portrait of J. M. W. Turner, making his sketch for the celebrated picture of 'Mercury & Argus' (exhibited in 1836) Portrait of J. M. W. Turner, R.A. making his sketch for the celebrated picture of Mercury & Argus (4674619).jpg
Charles Turner, c. 1840, Portrait of J. M. W. Turner, making his sketch for the celebrated picture of 'Mercury & Argus' (exhibited in 1836)

Turner traveled widely in Europe, starting with France and Switzerland in 1802 and studying in the Louvre in Paris in the same year. He made many visits to Venice. Important support for his work came from Walter Ramsden Fawkes of Farnley Hall, near Otley in Yorkshire, who became a close friend of the artist. Turner first visited Otley in 1797, aged 22, when commissioned to paint watercolours of the area. He was so attracted to Otley and the surrounding area that he returned to it throughout his career. The stormy backdrop of Hannibal Crossing The Alps is reputed to have been inspired by a storm over the Chevin in Otley while he was staying at Farnley Hall.

Turner was a frequent guest of George O'Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont, at Petworth House in West Sussex and painted scenes that Egremont funded taken from the grounds of the house and of the Sussex countryside, including a view of the Chichester Canal. Petworth House still displays a number of paintings.

Personal life

As Turner grew older, he became more eccentric. He had few close friends except for his father, who lived with him for 30 years and worked as his studio assistant. His father's death in 1829 had a profound effect on him, and thereafter he was subject to bouts of depression. He never married but had a relationship with an older widow, Sarah Danby (1760–1861). He is believed to have been the father of her two daughters Evalina Dupois (1801–1874) and Georgiana Thompson (1811–1843). [22]

Turner formed a relationship with Sophia Caroline Booth (1798–1875) after her second husband died, and he lived for about 18 years as "Mr Booth" in her house in Chelsea. [23]

Turner was a habitual user of snuff; in 1838, Louis Philippe I, King of the French presented a gold snuff box to him. [24] Of two other snuffboxes, an agate and silver example bears Turner's name, [25] and another, made of wood, was collected along with his spectacles, magnifying glass and card case by an associate housekeeper. [26]

Death

Turner died of cholera at the home of Sophia Caroline Booth, in Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, on 19 December 1851. He is buried in St Paul's Cathedral, where he lies near to Sir Joshua Reynolds. [27] Apparently his last words were "The Sun is God", [28] though this may be apocryphal. [29]

Turner's friend, the architect Philip Hardwick (1792–1870), son of his tutor, Thomas Hardwick, was in charge of making the funeral arrangements and wrote to those who knew Turner to tell them at the time of his death that, "I must inform you, we have lost him."[ citation needed ] Other executors were his cousin and chief mourner at the funeral, Henry Harpur IV (benefactor of Westminster – now Chelsea & Westminster – Hospital), Revd. Henry Scott Trimmer, George Jones RA and Charles Turner ARA. [30]

Art

Style

Turner's talent was recognised early in his life. Financial independence allowed Turner to innovate freely; his mature work is characterised by a chromatic palette and broadly applied atmospheric washes of paint. According to David Piper's The Illustrated History of Art, his later pictures were called "fantastic puzzles". Turner was recognised as an artistic genius: the influential English art critic John Ruskin described him as the artist who could most "stirringly and truthfully measure the moods of Nature". [31] Turner's work drew criticism from contemporaries, in particular from Sir George Beaumont, a landscape painter and fellow member of the Royal Academy, who described his paintings as 'blots'. [32]

Turner's imagination was sparked by shipwrecks, fires (including the burning of Parliament in 1834, an event which Turner witnessed first-hand, and transcribed in a series of watercolour sketches), and natural phenomena such as sunlight, storm, rain, and fog. He was fascinated by the violent power of the sea, as seen in Dawn after the Wreck (1840) and The Slave Ship (1840).

Turner's major venture into printmaking was the Liber Studiorum (Book of Studies), seventy prints that he worked on from 1806 to 1819. The Liber Studiorum was an expression of his intentions for landscape art. The idea was loosely based on Claude Lorrain's Liber Veritatis (Book of Truth), where Lorrain had recorded his completed paintings; a series of print copies of these drawings, by then at Devonshire House, had been a huge publishing success. Turner's plates were meant to be widely disseminated, and categorised the genre into six types: Marine, Mountainous, Pastoral, Historical, Architectural, and Elevated or Epic Pastoral. [33] His printmaking was a major part of his output, and a museum is devoted to it, the Turner Museum in Sarasota, Florida, founded in 1974 by Douglass Montrose-Graem to house his collection of Turner prints. [34]

Turner's early works, such as Tintern Abbey (1795), stay true to the traditions of English landscape. In Hannibal Crossing the Alps (1812), an emphasis on the destructive power of nature has already come into play. His distinctive style of painting, in which he used watercolour technique with oil paints, created lightness, fluency, and ephemeral atmospheric effects. [35]

In Turner's later years he used oils ever more transparently and turned to an evocation of almost pure light by use of shimmering colour. A prime example of his mature style can be seen in Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway , where the objects are barely recognisable. The intensity of hue and interest in evanescent light not only placed Turner's work in the vanguard of English painting but exerted an influence on art in France; the Impressionists, particularly Claude Monet, carefully studied his techniques.

High levels of volcanic ash (from the eruption of Mt. Tambora) in the atmosphere during 1816, the "Year Without a Summer", led to unusually spectacular sunsets during this period, and were an inspiration for some of Turner's work.

John Ruskin said that an early patron, Thomas Monro, Principal Physician of Bedlam, and a collector and amateur artist, was a significant influence on Turner's style:

His true master was Dr Monro; to the practical teaching of that first patron and the wise simplicity of method of watercolour study, in which he was disciplined by him and companioned by his friend Girtin, the healthy and constant development of the greater power is primarily to be attributed; the greatness of the power itself, it is impossible to over-estimate.

Together with a number of young artists, Turner was able, in Monro's London house, to copy works of the major topographical draughtsmen of his time and perfect his skills in drawing. But the curious atmospherical effects and illusions of John Robert Cozens's watercolours, some of which were present in Monro's house, went far further than the neat renderings of topography. The solemn grandeur of his Alpine views were an early revelation to the young Turner and showed him the true potential of the watercolour medium, conveying mood instead of information.

Materials

Turner experimented with a wide variety of pigment. [36] He used pigments like carmine, despite knowing that they were not long-lasting, and against the advice of contemporary experts to use more durable pigments. As a result, many of his colours have now faded. Ruskin complained at how quickly his work decayed; Turner was indifferent to posterity and chose materials that looked good when freshly applied. [37] By 1930, there was concern that both his oils and his watercolours were fading. [38]

Legacy

Turner left a small fortune which he hoped would be used to support what he called "decayed artists". He planned an almshouse at Twickenham with a gallery for some of his works. His will was contested and in 1856, after a court battle, his first cousins, including Thomas Price Turner, received part of his fortune. [41] Another portion went to the Royal Academy of Arts, which occasionally awards students the Turner Medal. His finished paintings were bequeathed to the British nation, and he intended that a special gallery would be built to house them. This did not happen due to disagreement over the final site. Twenty-two years after his death, the British Parliament passed an act allowing his paintings to be lent to museums outside London, and so began the process of scattering the pictures which Turner had wanted to be kept together.

In 1910, the main part of the Turner Bequest, which includes unfinished paintings and drawings, was rehoused in the Duveen Turner Wing at the National Gallery of British Art (now Tate Britain). In 1987, a new wing at the Tate, the Clore Gallery, was opened to house the Turner bequest, though some of the most important paintings remain in the National Gallery in contravention of Turner's condition that they be kept and shown together. Increasingly paintings are lent abroad, ignoring Turner's provision that they remain constantly and permanently in Turner's Gallery.

St. Mary's Church, Battersea added a commemorative stained glass window for Turner, between 1976 and 1982. [42] St Paul's Cathedral, Royal Academy of Arts and Victoria & Albert Museum all hold statues representing him. A portrait by Cornelius Varley with his patent graphic telescope (Sheffield Museums & Galleries) was compared with his death mask (National Portrait Gallery, London) by Kelly Freeman at Dundee University 2009–10 to ascertain whether it really depicts Turner. The city of Westminster unveiled a memorial plaque at the site of his birthplace at 21 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden 2 June 1999. [43]

Selby Whittingham founded The Turner Society at London and Manchester in 1975. After the society endorsed the Tate Gallery's Clore Gallery wing (on the lines of the Duveen wing of 1910), as the solution to the controversy of what should be done with the Turner Bequest, Selby Whittingham resigned and founded the Independent Turner Society. The Tate created the prestigious annual Turner Prize art award in 1984, named in Turner's honour, and 20 years later the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours founded the Winsor & Newton Turner Watercolour Award. A major exhibition, "Turner's Britain", with material (including The Fighting Temeraire ) on loan from around the globe, was held at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from 7 November 2003 to 8 February 2004. In 2005, Turner's The Fighting Temeraire was voted Britain's "greatest painting" in a public poll organised by the BBC. [44]

Portrayal in theatre, television and film

Leo McKern played Turner in The Sun is God, a 1974 Thames Television production directed by Michael Darlow. [45] The programme aired on 17 December 1974, during the Turner Bicentenary Exhibition in London. [46]

In January 2011 The Painter , a biographical play on his life by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, premiered at the Arcola Theatre in London.

British filmmaker Mike Leigh wrote and directed Mr. Turner , a biopic of Turner's later years, released in 2014. The film starred Timothy Spall as Turner, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey and Paul Jesson, and premiered in competition for the Palme d'Or at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, with Spall taking the award for Best Actor. [47] [48]

Appearance on £20 Bank Note in 2020

The Bank of England announced that a portrait of Turner will appear on the £20 note beginning in 2020. It will be the first £20 British banknote printed on polymer. [49]

Selected works

Turner was an extremely prolific artist who left behind more than 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolours, and 30,000 paper works. [50] The Tate Gallery in London produces the most comprehensive and up to date catalogue of Turner works [51] held in both public and private collections worldwide.

Notes

  1. Although Turner was known by his middle name, William, he is now generally referred to by his initials, in order to avoid confusion with the artist William Turner.
  2. Turner claimed to have been born on 23 April 1775, which is both Saint George's Day and the supposed birthday of William Shakespeare, but this claim has never been verified. [3] The first verifiable date is that Turner was baptised on 14 May, and some authors doubt the 23 April date on the grounds that high infant mortality rates meant that parents usually baptised their children shortly after birth. [4]
  3. Her illness was possibly due in part to the early death of Turner's younger sister. Hamilton suggests that this "fit of illness" may have been an early sign of her madness.[ citation needed ]

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References

  1. "Turner Society Homepage" . Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  2. Lacayo, Richard (11 October 2007). "The Sunshine Boy". Time . At the turn of the 18th century, history painting was the highest purpose art could serve, and Turner would attempt those heights all his life. But his real achievement would be to make landscape the equal of history painting.
  3. 1 2 Shanes, Eric (2008). The life and masterworks of J.M.W. Turner (4th ed.). New York: Parkstone Press. ISBN   978-1-85995-681-6.
  4. Hamilton, James (2007). Turner (Random House Trade Paperback ed.). New York: Random House. p. 8. ISBN   978-0-8129-6791-3.
  5. Herrmann, Luke (October 2006). Joseph Mallord William Turner. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography . Oxford University Press.
  6. 1 2 Hamilton, James (2007). Turner. New York: Random House. Chapter 1. ISBN   978-0-8129-6791-3.(Subscription required.)
  7. Bailey, Anthony (1998). Standing in the sun: a life of J.M.W. Turner. London: Pimlico. p. 8. ISBN   0-7126-6604-4.(Subscription required.)
  8. Brown, David Blayney (December 2012). "Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851". In Brown, David Blayney (ed.). J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours. Tate Research Publications. ISBN   978-1-84976-386-8 . Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  9. 1 2 Wilton, Andrew (2006). Turner in his time (New ed.). London: Thames & Hudson. p. 14. ISBN   978-0-500-23830-1.
  10. Wilton, Andrew (2006). Turner in his time (New ed.). London: Thames & Hudson. p. 15. ISBN   978-0-500-23830-1.
  11. Thornbury, George Walter (1862). The life of J.M.W. Turner. p. 8.
  12. Hamilton, James (1997). "1". Turner : a life. London: Sceptre. ISBN   0-340-62811-1.
  13. Thornbury, George Walter (1862). The life of J.M.W. Turner. p. 27.
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Sources

Further reading