Biography of Joseph Mallord William Turner

Portrait of J.M.W. Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner was a nineteenth century artist noted for his innovative landscapes.

When and Where was he Born?

23rd April 1775, 21 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, England. Christened Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Family Background:

Joseph Mallord William Turner was the son of a barber and wig-maker from the provinces.


Studies under Thomas Malton. Royal Academy Schools, London from the age of 14.

Timeline of J.M.W Turner:

1790’s: He joins forces with Thomas Girtin colour washing his drawings.

1793: Turner is awarded the Greater Silver Palette by the Society of Arts.

1799: Turner is elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Royal Academy
The Royal Academy of Arts in London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1800: He publishes some poetry which was originally intended to complement his exhibits at the Royal Academy. He often stays with his patron Lord Egremont at Petworth House and lodges in many London taverns around this period.

1802: Turner is elected a Member of the Royal Academy. He visits the Louvre in Paris for the first time to see the paintings looted by Napoleon.

Statue of J.M.W. Turner
Statue of Turner in St Paul’s Cathedral, London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1804: Turner sets up his own gallery in his home at Harley Street, London.

1807: He is appointed as a Professor at the Royal Academy (of Perspective).

1811: Turner makes a trip to Italy and is impressed by the landscape.

1814: He helps set up the Artist’s General Benevolent Institution.

1817: He makes a tour of Germany and the Netherlands.

1819: Turner revisits Italy again.

1823: Turner is commissioned to paint “The Battle of Trafalgar” by St. James’s Palace.

1825: He again makes a tour of Germany and The Netherlands.

1831: Turner makes an extensive visit to Scotland.

1832: He travels to France and meets the famous artist Paul Delacroix in Paris.

1834: He tours Germany.

1836: Turner visits Switzerland and France.

1837: Turner resigns his teaching post at the Royal Academy.

The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up. 1839. National Gallery, London
The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up. 1839. National Gallery, London

1840: He meets the critic John Ruskin who admires his work greatly and who inspires him to visit Venice.

1841: Turner makes another tour of Switzerland.

1844: Turner makes the acquaintance of Charles Dickens and again makes a visit to Switzerland and Germany.

1845: He is appointed the Acting President of the Royal Academy.

1846: He takes lodgings with his mistress Sophia Caroline Booth at 118-19 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London and lives out the rest of his days as a virtual recluse under the assumed name of Admiral Booth.

1850: Turner exhibits for the last time at the Royal Academy.

When and Where Did he Die?

19th December 1851, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London, England of cholera.

Age at Death:



Resolutely refused to marry but had a secret relationship with Sarah Danby which produced children.

Site of Grave:

Artist’s Corner, the Crypt, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London.

Turner’s Grave in St Paul’s Cathedral, London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:


Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford.


Museum and Art Gallery, Peterborough.


Sudeley Castle.


City Art Gallery, Manchester.
The Lowry, Salford.


Civic Art Gallery, Southampton.


Bolton Art Gallery.


Usher Gallery, Lincoln.


Lady Lever Gallery, Port Sunlight, Wirral.
University Art Gallery.


Maiden Lane, Covent Garden.
Harley Street.
British Museum
Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.
Sandycombe Lodge, Twickenham.
National Gallery, Trafalgar Square. (especially “Rain Steam and Speed” and “The Fighting Temeraire”).
Tate Britain, Millbank. (Has a series of galleries devoted to his work).
Victoria and Albert Museum.
Sir John Soanes Museum.
Kenwood House, Hampstead.


Holborne Museum of Art, Bath.


Royal Holloway College, Egham.


Petworth House.


Ruskin Gallery, Sheffield.
Mappin Gallery, Weston Park, Sheffield.
Harewood House, Leeds.


National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.


National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.


Ulster Museum, Belfast.

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