Regarded as the most important landscape painter of the 19th century, Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in 1775 in Covent Garden, London. His father ran a barber shop alongside a wig-making business. Possibly due to his mother's mental stability which later led to an early death, the young Turner was sent off to stay with his uncle in Brentford.
The young Romantic artist began expressing an interest in painting, and went on to attend the prestigious Royal Academy of Art at a mere age of 14. A watercolour piece Turner did a year later was accepted for the RA Summer Exhibition of 1790.
Frequent visits to the breath taking countryside of Otley in Yorkshire and West Sussex created such an impact on Turner that he began creating detailed, realistic drawings of the inspiring landscapes. He stayed loyal to the traditional English landscapes for a couple of years but the subject matter of his later works nature in its powerful destructive form began to come into play in the 1812 painting of Hannibal Crossing the Alps.
Influential art critic John Ruskin described Turner, whose painting radiates a spectacular ephemeral quality, as the artist who could most stirringly and truthfully measure the moods of Nature. And even though his palette was vibrant with rich tangerines, cerulean and violet, a layer of transparency and lightness exists amidst the violence of the shipwrecks and catastrophes.
Turner became more eccentric as he grew older, and his father's departure in 1829 had a profound effect on the pioneer British artist, causing bouts of depression. At 70, Turner eventually bought a house in Chelsea and retired due to deteriorating health. After his death in 1851, Turner was buried at St. Paul's Cathedral and bequeathed to the British government more than 20,000 drawings, oil paintings and watercolours.