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J. M. W. Turner

Biography >> Art History


Where did J. M. W. Turner grow up?

Joseph Mallord William Turner was born above his father's barber shop in London, England on April 23, 1775. Joseph began to sketch pictures when he was a young boy. He enjoyed drawing outside pictures, especially buildings. Some of his drawings were sold from his father's shop.

When he was just fourteen years old he began to attend the Royal Academy of Art in London. He continued to sketch and work with water colors. Many of his sketches appeared in magazines. While he mostly sketched buildings and architecture, he also started to draw some pictures of the sea.

First Oil Painting

Turner painted his first oil painting in 1796. It was called Fishermen at Sea. Critics loved the painting and Turner gained a national reputation as a talented artist. Many compared his works to that of other famous painters.

Fishermen at Sea
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Turner was fascinated by the power of God in scenes of nature, especially the ocean and the sun. He would make many sketches in numbered notebooks and then use those for reference when he painted in his studio. He would often place people in his paintings, but they would be small and insignificant when compared to the power of nature around them.


As Turner's work continued to mature, he paid less attention to detail and more to the energy of the natural phenomenon he was painting such as the sea, a storm, a fire, or the sun. The objects in the paintings became less recognizable.

One example of this is the painting Rain, Steam, and Speed. This landscape of a locomotive crossing a bridge uses light and mist to give power to the train engine as it moves down the track. The emphasis is on the hue and the changing light as the train passes through the land.

Rain, Steam, and Speed
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Many of Turner's later works resemble the Impressionist style of painting that was to emerge in France in years to come. Turner's work no doubt influenced artists such as Monet, Degas, and Renoir.


J. M. W. Turner is considered by many art historians to be the greatest landscape painter in history. His artwork had a major influence on many artists to come after him including inspiring many of the impressionist artists.

Interesting Facts about J. M. W. Turner More examples of J. M. W. Turner's Art:

Calias Pier
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Burning of the House of Lords
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