b. 1775 London, d. 1851 London
Joseph Mallord William Turner's father, a barber and wigmaker, realized his son's artistic talents early, asserting that "my son is going to be a painter." Before enrolling in the Royal Academy, Turner gained some drawing experience in the offices several of London's leading architects. He first exhibited watercolors of architectural subjects and then experimented with scenes from literature and scenery designs for operatic productions. In his early twenties Turner's focus changed to historical landscapes. These large-scale paintings became increasingly divorced from nature and featured the loose, luminous brushwork and abstract conceptions for which he became known. At twenty-nine Turner opened his own gallery in London while also painting, exhibiting his own work, and teaching at the Royal Academy. A trip to Italy at the age of forty-four drastically altered his style, leading to his late emphasis on the power of color and light to create dramatic, evocative scenes. Turner's body of work includes around three hundred paintings and over twenty thousand drawings and watercolors, the majority of which were given to the English government upon his death. Most are now owned by the Tate Gallery in London.