J M W Turner was best known for creating atmospheric effects with his distinctive style of painting. He was born in 1775 in Covent Garden, London and became a student at the Royal Academy of Art School in June 1789. After only one year of study, Turner’s watercolour was accepted at the Royal Academy for the Summer Exhibition of 179. He exhibited at the academy almost every year for the rest of his life.
Turner’s talent was recognised early in his life, his pencil sketches and watercolours of the British landscape showed much attention to architectural detail. He would use low-toned and subdued colours such as blues, greys, browns and greens.
Turner took regular trips across Europe, visiting France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. He would spend most of his time making drawings, sketches and watercolours of scenes in Venice, Switzerland and Paris. He would make quick on-the-spot watercolour studies, where he responded to the different light and weather effects.
During his first trip to Italy he encountered the Mediterranean lighting, which was much warmer and brighter than that of England. This was a turning point for his work. The colours inspired him to use dramatic lighting, warmer tones and tranquil washes, a contrast from the paintings of Britain.
As Turner travelled across Europe he would experiment with different types of paper, newly-developed colours and paints. He liked to see how they affected the way he painted. He would use white papers to enhance the transparency of the watercolour washes or use a type of blue paper that would have a rougher texture for the sketches of the Loire and Seine Rivers in France.
Turner is one of the most celebrated British artists and his unique style of painting was a huge influence for the French impressionists, particularly Claude Monet.
Turner’s last exhibition at the Royal Academy was in 1850. He died on the 19th December 1851.