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Joseph Mallord William Turner

May 1, 1775 - December 19, 1851


British artist Joseph Mallord William Turner (b. 1775 – d. 1851) was one of the most prominent painters of the British Romantic period, an artistic movement that encouraged emotionalism and reconnecting with the presence of nature. Born in London to a lower-middle-class family, Turner was quickly identified as a child prodigy and enrolled in England’s most prestigious art academy, the Royal Academy of Arts, at age fourteen. Fascinated by the violent and passionate powers of the sea and the sun, he learned how to use watercolor, sketching, and oils to communicate the emotion or history of a landscape. He learned from other notable British artists in the academy like Sir Joshua Reynolds. Thanks to breakthroughs in manufacturing, Turner was able to transport his paint supplies and traveled all over the U.K. and Europe to find fascinating subjects for his work. He experimented with different methods of representation more and more towards the end of his career; his playfulness with light and color has often been considered an important precursor to the development of the Impressionist movement and earned him the nickname “the painter of light”. Despite being known to be reclusive and controversial during his time as a teacher and student at the Royal Academy, Turner’s impact on his fellow artists and his country was notable. One of the most famous art historians of the time, and a personal friend, John Ruskin, considered him to be the best landscape painter in history. In the time since Turner’s death, his importance to British art has been increasingly recognized: his paintings are often voted to be the favorite of the populace when polled.

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