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Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in 1775 in London’s Covent Garden. He entered the Royal Academy schools at the age of 14, and exhibited at the Royal Academy one year later.

Turner is often cited as the most important landscapist of the 19th century. Trained in the academic traditions of the 18th century, he became a pioneer in the study of light, colour and atmosphere, and is widely viewed as anticipating the Impressionists. He brought Romanticism to his landscapes, which are unparalleled in their luminosity, believing that his work should always express a narrative, be it historical, mythological or literary.

From 1792 Turner toured the country, sketching and drawing what he would later build into finished watercolours. At the age of 24, the youngest permitted age, Turner was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, and in 1802 he became a full academician. His early work captured exquisite architectural and natural detail, while his later works shifted focus to evoking effects of light, colour and atmosphere. In 1819 Turner made his first visit to Italy and from the on his paintings turn increasingly to the pale brilliance of colour, which he had already achieved in water colour and begins to think in the terms of ‘coloured light.’ In the 20th century these more abstract aspects of Turner’s late compositions received positive reappraisal, further reaffirming him as one of the most skilled and innovative artists of his time.

The success of Turner’s career was assured relatively early on. He continued to travel widely across England and the Continent in search of inspiration, and sketched profusely throughout his life.

Tate Britain’s Clore gallery is dedicated to Turner’s life and work and with other distinguished private and museum collections around the world also holding his work.

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