October 31 - JMW Turner - 'Painter of Lights'

The Fighting Temeraire being tugged to her last berth to be broken up. 1838. oil


JMW Turner is one of England's greatest painters, and one of the greatest landscape painters of the early 19th century.  Though many of his great works were oils, he was a master watercolor painter, exceptionally talented in the use of light to create atmosphere - thus his nickname, 'The Painter of Light.'  

He began his career in watercolors, and even used watercolor techniques to add a translucent quality to his oil paintings. By the time of his death, he created over 2,000 watercolors. 


The Early Years

Turner began painting in watercolor at just eleven years of age.  He began his career in architectural drawings, and his first paintings revealed that influence with precise attention to architectural and natural detail - though a need for better perspective.  

But he soon mastered perspective, too, and by his early teens he was creating beautiful landscapes of the towns, countryside and people surrounding him in England. 



St. John's Church, Margate. 1786. watercolor          Oxford, Folly Bridge, and Bacon's Tower. 1787. watercolor  
Canterbury, the West Gate, from the River Stour. 1792. watercolor


 By 1894, Turner began working with oils.  His effective use of light was apparent even in his first oil painting, Fishermen at Sea.  His work gradually became less detailed and more atmospheric.  Light and color became prominent. 



              Fishermen at Sea. 1796. Oil                                                       Calais Pier. 1803. Oil 

                    Frosty Morning. 1813. Oil


The MIddle Years

Turner added historical events and figures to his landscapes.  But his paintings were still dominated by the emotion of his atmospheres.  



Snowstorm, Hannibal and His Army Crossing the Alps.1812.oil               Dido Building Carthage. 1815. Oil 


                      The Battle of Trafalgar. 1824. oil            Slavers, Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying..1840. oil  


The Latter Years

During his later years, Turner traveled throughout Italy and Europe, creating many of his finest mature watercolors from scenes he observed during his time in Switzerland.  


          Blue Rigi, Lucerne.1843.watercolor                                              Lake of Zug. 1843. watercolor


Moonrise. La Guidecca, Venice.1829. watercolor                                  Grand Canal Venice. 1835. Oil


His work became even less detailed.  Light, color and now motion became more characteristic - more impressionism than realism.  


                  Peace, Burial at Sea..1842. oil                                                Rain, Steam and Speed. 1843. Oil


                       Sunrise.1842. watercolor                                     Snowstorm, Steamboat off a harbor's mouth. 1842. oil


By the time of his death in 1856, Turner had become one of the most impressive landscape artists in history.  His effective use of light, and original style of art influenced some of the world's finest painters for centuries to come.