Joseph Mallord William Turner

(J.M.W. Turner)

1775 - 1851

English landscape artist, regarded as one of Britain's greatest painters. Born at Covent Garden in London, the son of a barber, his connection with Scotland is through his work. Turner began painting at an early age and exhibited his first work when only 15. His precocious talent was well-received and he was accepted as the youngest ever Academician by the Royal Academy in 1802. Turner was to transform landscape painting in Britain becoming one of the world's most influential artists. He was noted for detailed topographical studies and atmospheric works featuring grand land and seascapes. Turner also favoured historical subjects and incorporated scenes from the Industrial Revolution into his paintings.

He travelled in Europe and around the UK, touring Scotland in 1801 and again in 1831, sketching as he went. His works include The Falls of Clyde (1801 and 1845), Edinburgh from Calton Hill (1804), Gretna Green (1801), Linlithgow Palace (1807), Loch Coruisk, Skye (1831), Fingal's Cave, Staffa (1832), Caerlaverock Castle (1832), New Abbey (1833), Loch Katrine (1834), Lochmaben Castle (1834) and Inveraray Pier, Loch Fyne (1845). Turner was commissioned by Robert Stevenson (1772 - 1850) to paint his Bell Rock Lighthouse in 1819, and this painting is now held by National Gallery of Scotland, along with many others of his works, including views of Edinburgh, Melrose and Abbotsford House. His works are also well-represented in the collections of the National Gallery and Tate Gallery in London, together with Scottish regional galleries such as Aberdeen Art Gallery, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Turner was a noted abolitionist, with his iconic painting The Slave Ship (1840) capturing the horror of the slave trade. He never married, although was known as a notable womaniser. He fathered two children with his mistress and housekeeper, Sarah Danby. In later life he had a relationship with his landlady, the twice-widowed Sophia Booth. He was also close to the Scottish mathematician and scientist Mary Somerville (1780 - 1872).

Turner died in his Chelsea home and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral in London. His legacy includes the Turner Medal awarded by the Royal Academy, but he intended to leave the bulk of his considerable fortune to support 'decayed artists'. However, his will was contested by his relatives who eventually gained much of his wealth and a number of important paintings. Despite this, an extraordinary 19,000 paintings and drawings were given to the Nation as the Turner Bequest.

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