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William L. Turner was one of the early twentieth-century’s leading landscape artists, producing dramatic imagery of the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands. Born to George Turner, and artist known as ‘The Derbyshire Constable’, William was clearly destined to be a landscape painter. Training under his father alongside future artists including David Payne and Louis Bosworth Hunt, Turner quickly followed in his father’s footsteps – although he would increasingly turn to wild landscapes as a subject matter. One of the last in a line of English landscape painters, stretching back to the eighteenth-century, William was largely uninfluenced by the modernist artistic developments on the continent. As Landseer and Breanski had done before him, Turner would continue to paint in a dramatic, romanticising idiom as he sought to capture the remaining wildernesses of the British Isles at their most dramatic. Straddling realism and romanticism, his style proved very successful. Every work William would exhibit at the Royal Academy was of either the Cumbrian or Highland hills, suggesting that his choice of subject was very well received. He was clearly a popular artist in his own lifetime. In 1901, while living and working from the inaccessible Levens in Cumbria, Turner would exhibit three paintings at the RA in that year alone. Furthermore, his work is still some of the most recognisable to the nation even if his name is not. Turner’s painting of Rydal Water from 1899 is seen by thousands each year, hung in the parlour at Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s lake district home. After she had bought the work directly from the artist, the author would leave it to the nation as part of her bequest. His painting of Coniston Valley would also become well known to the nation as the cover of the Wordsworth Editions release of Wuthering Heights. Although it was often thought (possibly by the artist himself) that William must have been a relative of JMW Turner, there is no evidence to support this. The fact that his contemporaries felt that the connection was warranted is probably better evidence than any of the quality of his work. Today, William Lakin Turner paintings can still be seen in the Museums and Art Galleries of Derby, Nuneaton, and Nottingham, and his works are still in high demand for any lovers of the Lake District or Scotland.


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