Monday, February 22, 2010

J.M.W. Turner by Peter Ackroyd

Painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) brushed off admirers' praises with the claim that his genius was nothing but hard work, but he was not humble. He still expected the best space for hanging his pictures at annual Royal Academy exhibitions. He submitted paintings almost every year for fifty-eight years, missing only four times. By the time he died, the very private Turner was the most famous but perhaps least known painter in England. In J.M.W. Turner, prolific biographer Peter Ackroyd chronicles Turner's revolutionary career as the painter obsessed with light and color.

Often alone, never married, England's master of marine, landscape, and historical painting was not totally unsociable. He lived with his father, who helped him manage his house and studios. He also maintained quiet relationships with widows and had two daughters. Several patrons opened their homes to him at any time. Turner used his friend's hospitality to visit landscapes across England and the continent.

In this title from Ackroyd's Brief Lives, author Peter Ackroyd tries to recount Turner's career quickly. He mostly succeeds, leaving the read time to check out volumes of Turner's oils and watercolors.

Ackroyd, Peter. J.M.W. Turner. 2006. Doubleday. 173p. ISBN 0385507984.

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