J.M.W. Turner

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Chatto & Windus, 2005 - Painters - 161 pages
2 Reviews
JAMES MALLORD WILLIAM TURNER (1775-1851) was a Londoner through and through. His father had a barbers shop in Covent Garden, his mother came from a line of London butchers. He was short and pugnacious, and as Peter Ackroyd writes: 'His speech was recognizably that of a Cockney, and his language was the language of the street'. He was both the most admired and the most derided painter of his time. He wanted to excel in all forms of painting - from landscape to historical and allegorical - and to use every form of painterly medium - oil, gouache, watercolour, even engraving. His vision soon outran the taste and even the understanding of his contemporaries, as he began to experiment in pure forms of light and colour, producing masterpieces of impassioned tonality that were still unsold at the time of his death. Though he travelled widelly, he never strayed far from the banks of his home river. He lived by the Thames, in cottages in Hammersmith and Isleworth, and he died by it, in a rented house in Chelsea. He was always secrective and kept a mistress about whom little was known. Reputed to be taciturn, miserly, even mad, he was, in truth, a generous and emotional man who grew tired of the world's attention. Peter Ackroyd's brilliant short biography reveals the genius of the artist and the abiding qualities of the man. In the process, it describes Turner's London and the singular characteristics of a 'Cockney visionary' who changed the nature of English art.

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User Review  - nmele - LibraryThing

Turner's art fascinates me, I have a screensaver that is simply a slide show of some of his oils and watercolors, but I knew nothing about him. Now I know a lot, Ackroyd has done it again! I am getting addicted to his brief lives biographies. Read full review

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User Review  - lilithcat - LibraryThing

In the second of his "Brief Lives" series, Ackroyd delves into the life of the man who was arguably England's greatest landscape painter. A Londoner to the core, he was the son of a barber and his ... Read full review

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About the author (2005)

Peter Ackroyd is of course a Cockney visionary himself. He has written and presented a 3-part TV series for the BBC on London. He is the author of London: The Biography and Illustrated London, and very few of his prize-winning biographies and novels stray far from his London obsessions - Turner was one of the subjects of a lecture that Ackroyd gave at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1993 (also televised) entitled London Luminaries and Cockney Visionaries; and Turner was also central to his Times article on Reflections on British art.

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