Joseph Turner was born on April 23, 1775 in London. His father taught him to read and that was the extent of his education. He loved to draw and by age 13 was selling his drawings in his father's barber shop. At 15 he was asked to exhibited one of his paintings at the Royal Academy and by 18 he had his own studio. His reputation grew rapidly and success came to him at a young age. By 27 he was a full member of the Royal Academy.
He began to travel throughout Europe. Venice, Italy became of source of inspiration for him and many of his paintings are set there. He studied the effects of the sea and the sky in different types of weather. Eventually his paintings evolved into a sort of romantic interpretation of the landscape instead realistic interpretation. Indeed, although Turner was an inspiration to the Impressionists, he is considered part of the Romanticism movement that began in the latter half of the 18th century and grew during the Industrial Revolution.
The painting Rain, Steam, and Speed , the Great Western Railway is an example of Turner's later work, a good example of the style for which he is famous. It is a watercolor and was painted before 1844, which was the year it was exhibited. Most artists at this time disdained the Industrial Revolution and much of the work of this time is of a back to nature type. For example, Constable in art, William Wordsworth in poetry, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe in literature. They are all considered part of the Romanticism movement. But Joseph Turner differed with them on the industrial age. He admired what was going on and he successfully combined nature with industry in many of his paintings. He was an especially big fan of the railways and chose one of the most advanced engines for this painting,known as the "Friefly Class"; and the bridge it is crossing at Maidenhead was a masterpiece of engineering by the greatest bridge - builder of his time, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.*
Other examples of Turner's work:The Grand Canal, Venice 1835 oil on canvas (left) and Warkworth Castle, Northumberland - Thunder Storm Approaching at Sun-Set 1799,watercolor on paper (right) .
Joseph Turner became more and more eccentric over the years and eventually isolated himself from everyone. One day he disappeared from his home and was missing for many months. He was found hiding in a house in Chelsea near death. He died the following day, Dec. 19,1851