John Mallord William Turner
Turner is one of the finest english landscape artist. Turner began exhibiting his work while he was still a teenager and he was successful throughout his career.
Turner was born in London in 1775. His father was a barber and his mother died when he was very young. His entire life was devoted to his art, as by the age of 13 he was making drawings at home and exhibiting them in his father’s shop window for sale. He quickly achieved a fine reputation; actually Turner was 15 when he received a rare honour: one of his paintings was exhibited at the Royal Academy. Furthermore in 1802, when he was only 20, he became a full member of the Academy. He soon obtained his own studio and print sellers began to buy his drawings for reproduction.
Like Constable, he was a keen meteorologist, and wherever he visited, he studied the effects of various kinds of weather on the sea and sky. Although trained as a topographic draftsman (drawer of maps and plans), he later refined his painting technique according to Romantic principles. Instead of merely recording what he saw, Turner translated scenes into light-filled expression of his own feelings and perceptions.
But, as he grew older, he became an eccentric. He had no close friends, he allowed no one to watch him while painting, he gave up attending the meetings of the Academy. On top of that, he still held exhibition, but he usually refused to sell his paintings.
One day Turner mysteriously disappeared from his house. His housekeeper, after looking for him for many months, found him hiding in a house in Chelsea, where he had been ill for a long time. He died the following day, on 19th December 1851.
His collection of paintings was bequeathed to his country.
Turner is famous as one of the founders of english watercolour landscape painting, some of his most well-known works are: Calais Pier, Dido Building Carthage, Rain, Steam and Speed, Burial at Sea, The Grand Canal.
Suitable vehicles for Turner’s imagination were shipwrecks, fires, such as the burning of Parliament in 1834, an event which Turner rushed to witness first-hand, and which he represented in a series of watercolour sketches. He was also interested in natural catastrophes, such as sunlight, storm, rain and fog. He was fascinated by the natural power of the sea, too.
Turner placed human beings in many of his paintings, to indicate on the one hand his affection for humanity, and on the other hand its vulnerability and vulgarity against the sublime nature of the world. Sublime means awe-inspiring, a natural world unmastered by man, evidence of the power of God. Turner thought light was the emanation of God’s spirit and this was why he refined his later paintings by leaving out solid objects and details and concentrating on the play of light and water, of skies and fires.
One popular legend about Turner said that he even had himself tied to the mast of a ship in order to experience the drama of the elements during a storm at sea.