Joseph Mallord William Turner
(London, England, 1775 – 1851, London, England)
J.M.W. Turner’s early nineteenth-century landscapes are considered some of the most accomplished landscape paintings of all time, as well as precursors to the phenomenon of Impressionism, which arose later in nineteenth-century France.
Turner was trained as a topographical artist in the studio of Thomas Malton (British, 1748–1804), but quickly surpassed him by creating images of nature’s grandeur that inspired awe in his contemporaries. Turner became a student at the Royal Academy School and began exhibiting in 1789, became a full member of the Royal Academy in 1802, and lectured as well as taught there from 1807 to1838.
Turner excelled at depicting the impermanence of the natural world, suggesting the variety of light, color, and atmosphere that characterize the world’s climate. His focus was on expressing that concept by eliciting a sense of wonder in the viewer that acknowledges the vastness of the universe, and mankind’s subordinate role in the scheme of life. His largest and most important theme was the inter-relationship of man and nature; for example, natural events such as storms were seen as analogous to the sometime tempestuousness of human interactions.
Beginning in 1806, Turner devoted a significant amount of time to producing his “manual” for the production of landscape known as the “Liber Studiorum”. He made drawings for the publication and had them reproduced in engraving, etching, and mezzotint. As he intended, the “Liber Studiorum” was used by students for several generations as a tool for the study of landscape composition. After his death, the nation received from his estate hundreds of the artists oil paintings and thousands of his drawings, most of which are today housed at the Tate Gallery in London.