23 Apr, 2021

William Turner – master of the romantic landscape

William Turner was born in London on 23 April 1775 to a barber’s family. There were many artists and engravers among the visitors to the barber shop. Therefore, it was not surprising that the boy became interested in painting.

William’s father considered his son’s drawing lessons not at all as empty entertainment, but as a fairly reliable source of earning money. Once he hung up his son’s watercolors in a shop when he was barely twelve years old, and began to sell them for two or three shillings apiece.

At first, the young Turner made copies of the then fashionable topographic views of scenic areas, castles, ruins, architectural monuments of London. Soon he began to translate drawings, illustrating all sorts of guides and descriptions, into engravings.

On the recommendation of some artists who noticed the boy’s talented drawings, he was enrolled in December 1789 as a free student at the Royal Academy, when Turner was only 15 years old. During this period, one of his drawings was accepted for an exhibition at the academy.

The first canvas that he showed at an academic exhibition in 1796 was the painting “Fishermen at Sea”, or “Marina Chomli”.

Gradually Turner moves from watercolor to oil painting. By this time, he firmly decided to achieve recognition and all his life tried to prove that a landscape can express the highest concepts and feelings no worse than a historical picture. In Turner’s paintings, movement is most often present – for example, a rough sea, ships – as well as sunrises, sunsets, fogs, smokes.

Since the 1830s, Turner’s technique has become freer. He is not interested in form or believability, but in light and color. With his inimitable technique, he conveys emotions and moods.

Despite his fame and material well-being, he was gloomy, uncommunicative, harsh in his behavior and indifferent to everything except his art. One of his oddities was to disappear from the house without warning anyone, and hide for several days in a small apartment in a remote part of London.

And in one of these absences, William Turner died suddenly. It happened on December 19, 1851 in Chelsea.

Turner died a very wealthy man, leaving behind a huge number of works: 300 oil paintings and 19,000 drawings. Now they are collected in the gallery Klour specially built for them. Turner bequeathed a significant part of his fortune to charity, and all unsold works – to the London National Gallery.

With the amount he left at the Royal Academy, a fund was established to provide grants to artists in need and a medal named after him was established, awarded every two years as an award for the best landscape presented by the Academy.