1805 William Turner

The River Thames and Kew Bridge, with Brentford Eyot in the foreground and Strand-on-the-Green through the Arches: Low Tide, 1805

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) was born in Covent Garden where his father was a barber and wig maker. When he was ten years old, his mother fell ill (she would later be committed to a mental asylum) and he was sent to Brentford to live with his uncle William Marshall, a butcher who lived in a cottage in the Market Place next door to the White Horse pub (now part of The Weir). While there he received his first artistic commission, colouring in book plates for the foreman of the Brentford gin distillery at 2d a plate.* He was accepted into the Royal Academy of Art school in 1789 when he was only 14 years old.

Between 1805 and 1806 he lived at Ferry House in Isleworth, before moving to Hammersmith’s Upper Mall (1806–11). Disgusted at the demolition of Alexander Pope’s famous villa in Twickenham by a philistine baroness in 1807,** Turner bought his own plot at Twickenham and built a villa there, where he lived with his father, in between busy periods travelling in Europe or working and exhibiting in London’s West End.

During these early years of the 19th century he explored, fished, sketched and painted scenes along the Thames, including this pencil and watercolour from a sketchbook of images from Reading to Walton.

Acknowledgements: ©Tate, London 2017

* Janet McNamara, Brentford High Street Project
** http://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-1775-1851-r1141041

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