Art Friday: Joseph Mallord William Turner

 Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)

"The painter of light"
The Turner exhibition (from the Tate Gallery, London) is on its way to the National Art Gallery of Australia, opening on the 1st of June (until Septmeber 2013). I am very excited about this and will be going off to see the exhibition at some point.  He was one of my art teacher's favourite artists and would love to tell us stories about the artist and talk about his works, I always think of that teacher when I think of Turner. 

To celebrate the arrival of the Turner works I thought I would share some facts about the artist that you may not be aware of.

  • Turner died on Dec. 19, 1851, and was buried as a national hero in St. Paul's Cathedral, during his life he lived a rather squalid life and considered eccentic.
  • He left a fortune of more than £140, 000 to a charity for "Decayed Artists" and a vast hoard of sketches and his finest paintings, many of which he left to the nation.
  • Much of Turner's life was a well-kept secret, including his relations with a widow, Sarah Danby, by whom he allegedly had two daughters.
  • His mother, a schizophrenic, was locked up in Bedlam, the notorious madhouse.  His father went to live with him and devoted the rest of his life to serving as his son’s studio assistant and general agent.
  • Turners father was a wig maker.
  • A sickly child, Turner was sent to live with his uncle in rural England, and it was during this period that he began his artistic career.
  • People thought he was mean and miserly.
  • His work—initially realistic (below, 1801)—became more fluid and poetic, and is now regarded as a predecessor to Impressionism.
  • Turner's painting became increasingly abstract as he strove to portray light, space, and the elemental forces of nature.
  • From 1796 Turner exhibited oil paintings as well as watercolours at the Royal Academy. The first, Fishermen at Sea (1796), is a moonlight scene and was acclaimed by a contemporary critic as the work “of an original mind.” (see below)
"The fighting Temeraire Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up" (1838): This would be one painting of Turner's that most people would recognise. Turner painted this as a tribute to the passing of the sailing ship as they were being replaced by the steam-powered vessel.
Sunrise over the lake - his move into abstract painting, you can see were the Impressionists got their inspiration from.
Turner in his early years as a landscape painter "Fonthill Abbey"
This is for those of you who don't like Turner's more abstract works!!
Captureing the modern age of the steam train.
Snow storm - steam boat off a harbours mouth, 1842



  1. He had talent, didn't he? :) Even his more abstract paintings show some talent (unlike other abstract art I've seen!)I quite like his use of colour in his paintings that have sunlight in them - love the use of yellow!

    1. I can't wait to see the exhibition, 100 paintings in total. He was game to move so far from the traditional painting style, but it made him a rich man, not that he spent it on himself.

  2. I love Turner. He understood light & space better than just about any other artist! And yes, I prefer his impressionistic works. I knew little of his life, but I have been captivated by his us of light since I was a child.

    1. I think like many artists, be was eccentric, the very thing that gave him this brilliant talent. I will make sure I buy the catalogue when I go to the exhibition so I can read up on him.

  3. I really like the realistic Vienna painting the best! The water in that one is marvelous and the colors are lovely. :-)

    1. He really knew how to paint with colours and light, I can't wait to see some of his works in the real, it will be amazing.

  4. Oh, I like his realistic paintings better. The impressionistic ones seem full of confusion to me. Oh, and I'm guessing the date on "The fighting Temeraire Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up" is supposed to be 1838?

    1. Quite right - out by a few years in my rushing!!!

      Not everyone likes the more abstract paintings which is why included both types of styles.


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