J. M. W. Turner (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Turner, the outstanding revolutionary painter of landscapes, was a Romantic. With the vast complexity of his work, he has been called the Shakespeare of English art. An artist far ahead of his time, he is without equal in depicting the sea in all of its moods.
Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in Covent Garden to a barber and a wigmaker. His mother, Mary Marshall, was some six years older than his father, William (“Joseph Mallord” are names from his mother’s family). While he is said to have been the eldest son, there are no extant references to other children, except for a sister three years younger, Mary Ann, who died when Turner was eleven.
His mother, apparently subject to fits of manic rage, was committed to Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane in December, 1800—by neighbors, not family members—and died there in April, 1804, in her early sixties. Biographers have frequently attributed Turner’s problems with women and his fascination with nature in its most violent phases to his mother’s influence. As he left no journals or autobiography, Turner’s own thoughts on this subject, as on others, remain unknown. Only his words in reported conversations are available.
His father, who, Turner said, never praised him except for saving a shilling, exhibited his son’s drawings in the shopwindow and boasted that his son would become a painter. After the...
(The entire section is 2602 words.)
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