Turner, J.M.W.(British, 1775-1851)
A strikingly innovative watercolorist, painter, and printmaker, Joseph Mallord William Turner fixed his poetic gaze upon landscape and seascape scenes and historical themes. Turner venerated and emulated classical landscape painters such as Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain—in fact, in his will, he gave instructions for his works in London’s National Gallery to be hung next to the paintings of Claude Lorrain.
First employed as an architect’s assistant, Turner, at the age of fourteen, made his artistic debut with the exhibition of his work Fishermen at Sea at the illustrious Royal Academy. Turner remained in close association with the Academy throughout his life, exhibiting regularly, acting as Professor of Perspective, and serving as president in 1845. Later in his career, he exhibited “painting performances” at the Academy; first submitting original works in nascent stages, Turner would then complete the paintings publically in the exhibition room during Varnishing Days. A fellow artist described the canvases in the early stages as “without form and void, like chaos before the creation.”
Although fellow artists such as Monet and Pissarro and art critic John Ruskin revered Turner’s technique and style, Turner’s later work, more deeply abstract and dramatically focused upon the effects of light and color, received negative scrutiny from many critics of his era; one critic characterized his later work as “the fruits of a diseased eye and reckless hand.” Yet his poetic sense of light and color profoundly influenced Impressionism, and Modernists later embraced his more abstract work—he was “reborn as an avant-garde artist” in 1906, upon the exhibition of his later, unfinished oils at the Tate Gallery.
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