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The Paintings of Turner poster

A very interesting & informative talk was given by Gerry Harrison, including slides of a variety of paintings from not just Turner, but his contemporaries to compare the styles.

Turner came from a poor background & was born off Fleet Street, London. He father was a barber & his Mother died early.

He went to a Margate School at 13 & went on Sketching tours in Kent in 1793 aged 18. Turner had 2 daughters by the widow of a London Actor, but never married. He was not Christian or Orthodox. He used paper from Watkins, a Maidstone paper Co.

He had no allowance but was more successful due to painting such a variety of subjects & also he sold paintings at good prices, so became rich quite soon. He always stove to improve himself & had a long thumbnail, to scratch paint off eg trees. Blue & yellow were his favourite colours. He joined the R A aged 24.

Ruskin called him ‘The Shakespeare of Painting’. Sometimes he would paint in watercolour, which was then turned into prints and/or etchings. He had a small sketchbook with notes etc, as he may have painted some 20 years later.

Landscape paintings were only accepted in the 19th Century. Travel had developed, therefore people went into the Country more often & so appreciated seeing a country scene.

He was about quality and quantity & was aware of man’s insignificance to the forces of nature. He was a forceful & determined man, who painted his feelings & was a great experimenter.

At one time he worked for Lord Egremont at Petworth House, where he had his own studio. Some artists learn to paint good skys, as they can make up as much as ½ or 2/3 of a painting. Turner looked at books on Cumulus clouds etc. In 1845 aged 70, he was still travelling on commissions by packhorse / coach.

We saw various SLIDES, some of which were Anstels Chapel at Canterbury, a scene of Whitby Harbour, with various ships where you could see the fine details of the rigging on one, Upnor Castle, a fire at a wharf at Rotherhithe & the Houses of Parliament on Fire, which Turner did 12 sketches of.


His sea paintings were very realistic, the seas really did look rough, but Turner could also paint the contrast of complete calm.

He painted a total of 550 oil, 1500 + water colours and 20,000 sketches including water colours/pencil sketches. Many are to be found in the Royal Gallery.


Last Revised: 26 January 2005

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