Considered one of the finest Romantic landscape artists of his time, Turner managed to recreate all Nature's emotions in his paintings.
Joseph William Turner was an English painter born in London in April 1775. He was considered one of the finest Romantic landscape painters of England. (Romanticism was an artistic movement in Europe, in which paintings were intense and charged with emotions.)
Turner's mother died early. Turner's father was a barber. He recognised his son's talent and displayed his paintings in his shop window. Turner's career began when the Royal Academy accepted one of his paintings at the age of 15. He trained under a topographic artist, Thomas Malton Jr. (Topography is detailed description of a town or a place like a map).
His initial paintings were mostly watercolours. He followed the traditionally acceptable style of giving importance to structures and forms, in a composition. He used subdued colours and chose historical events for his themes. His favourite painting was "Dido building Carthage". It was on Queen Dido building the Carthaginian Empire (place now in Tunisia, Africa).
There was a great demand for his work and he set up his own studio in his twenties. He also printed a book with all his landscape paintings, called "Liber Studiorum". Turner was fond of travelling and took long trips around England. He walked for miles around the countryside, sketching the beautiful scenery. He was particularly attracted to Wales and the Welsh countryside and its castles became the subject for many of his paintings.
Later, Turner travelled to Italy, France and Switzerland. The bright colours and clear lights of Venice slowly influenced his work. He continued painting landscapes with historical themes but used bright colours, instead of the conventional dark colours of grey and brown. Turner made the forms and structures in his painting seem softer, by using light in his paintings. He studied the use of yellow colour to show natural white light in his work and tried out different techniques like washes (where a diluted colour is applied on a paper, on a thin transparent layer, using a broad brush) and gouches (water based colours, which are made opaque by adding chalk). Many of his topographical paintings of Venice were created in this style.
Turner also did a number of oil paintings. His style changed further, as he got older. He began by closely observing nature and would then paint the rest based on his imagination. There was more energy in his paintings. His paintings began to show the dominance of nature over man. He was particularly fond of the sea and painted many seascapes through his life.
In his later works, he concentrated less on his forms or objects. He used pure colours and achieved atmospheric effects like mists, through clever use of lights in his paintings.
The snowstorm is an example of his later paintings, where the fury of the nature is evident and the boat is faintly recognisable.
Some of his critics commented that his pictures looked like `soap suds and white wash' but he had always had his loyal patrons to support him.
Turner was known as the painter of lights. Impressionist painters like Claude Monet, who also studied the effect of light on paintings, acknowledged Turner's genius in this technique.
Turner never married. In his last days, he became more of a recluse, refusing to speak to people and disappearing for days.
In his will, he left a large amount of his money for the benefit of struggling English male painters and all his works, for his country. Most of his works are now displayed at the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery and the British Museum in London.
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