“Light is therefore colour.”
– J.M.W. Turner
Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in England on April 23, 1775. His family lived above his father’s barber shop and young Joseph began to sketch pictures at a young age. By the time he was 13, some of his drawings were sold from his father’s shop. At the age of 15 he became a student at the Royal Academy of Art in London. He continued to sketch and work with watercolours. While he mostly sketched buildings and architecture, he started to draw some pictures of the sea.
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. He was known for being solitary, silent and totally devoted to drawing with a reputation for eccentricity.
In 1807, Turner accepted a position as professor at the Royal Academy, where he lectured until 1828. He grew increasingly eccentric and secretive, avoiding contact with virtually everyone except for his father who lived with him for 30 years. Turner continued to hold exhibitions but begrudgingly sold his paintings. And later in life became so fond of his paintings he called them “family” and refused to sell them. In his will, Turner asked for all his paintings to be displayed in a public gallery – as they are today- at the Tate Exhibition.
Known as the “Painter of Light,” he was fascinated by the power of nature, especially the ocean and the sun. In the painting Snow Storm which critics called “soap-suds and whitewash,” Turner claimed to a friend that he had actually been tied to the mast of a ship in order to experience the drama of a storm at sea firsthand.
Students used many different techniques to create their Turner inspired sunsets. They painted watercolours wet into wet and used tissues to blend the colours. The sea had an under painting of watercolours and was finished off with layered acrylic paint.