Ten Things You Didn't Know About Turner

by Cass Art

J.M.W Turner is one of Britain’s most beloved painters; famed for his use of light, the profound impact he had on landscape painting, and for his preface to Impressionism.

But he was also a controversial figure and rather eccentric character. The new film, Mr. Turner, can attest to that.

But as part of our Paint Light Colour campaign, we wanted to bring you some little-known facts about the painting genius: things that paint a better portrait of the man behind the masterpieces.


1. Turner started his studies at The Royal Academy of Art school when he was just 14 years old, and was accepted into the academy itself just a year later. He showed his first watercolour, A View of the Archbishop's Palace, Lambeth in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1790.

2. His father was one of his greatest friends, and was also his studio assistant, helping him to mix his paints. They lived together for 30 years. (N'aw.)

3. Turner never married but supposedly fathered two daughters with a widow named Sarah Danby – though he always denied that they were his own children.

4. Turner used pigments like carmine in his paintings, despite knowing that they wouldn’t last long. The colours would fade, and though contemporary experts told him so, he seemed indifferent – he claimed that he used materials that looked best when freshly applied.

5. During his life, he produced over 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolours, and 30,000 paper works. Art waits for nobody...

JMW Turner's painting

6. In 2006, his painting The Fighting Temeraire was voted the British people’s favourite painting.

7. Sometimes he would wipe tobacco juice and stale beer on his paintings – he was also known to even spit on them. All these little techniques apparently made them ‘look better.’

8. In his will, Turner left most of his £140,000 fortune to a charity for “decayed artists.” Unfortunately, after years of litigation, Turner’s distant relatives ended up with most of the money.

9. He is buried in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

10. When Turner died, his lasts words were said to have been, “The Sun is God.” No wonder he was known as The Painter of Light.


Feeling inspired?

Our Paint Light Colour campaign is celebrating painting and Turner throughout the month of October - find out more here.

Read about the new critically-acclaimed film Mr. Turner and find out about our exclusive ticket offer here

Image Credits:

The Fighting Temeraire, Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1839

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