Joseph Mallord William Turner

(British, 1775–1851)


Joseph Mallord William Turner

The son of a London barber and wig maker, Turner entered the Royal Academy Schools at the age of fourteen. As a youth, he traveled around England making drawings and watercolors of the countryside. In 1796, Turner exhibited his first oil painting at the Royal Academy. In 1799, he was elected an associate member of the Royal Academy at the age of twenty-four—the youngest permitted age—and in 1802, he was elected a full member. That year, wartime borders with Europe temporarily opened, and he traveled abroad for the first time, visiting France and Switzerland. For the rest of his life, when it was possible, Turner traveled extensively around Europe, drawing in sketchbooks and producing paintings from them back in his studio in England. In his art, he recorded England’s landscape as it evolved over decades of intense industrialization. He was both widely acclaimed by his contemporaries and attacked by critics, especially for his late, more abstract and experimental works. He had acquired great wealth by the time of his death of cholera at the age of seventy-six. 


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