Turner, Joseph Mallord William (1775-1851), English landscape painter, renowned for his vibrant and dramatic treatment of natural light and atmospheric effects in land and marine subjects, and whose work had a direct influence on the development of impressionism. Turner was born in London and studied at the Royal Academy of Arts. At the age of 15 he exhibited his first watercolor at the academy. He would continue to show his work there until 1850. He was elected an associate of the academy in 1799 and a full member three years later. He traveled widely throughout his career, extensively touring England and Scotland and later France, Switzerland, and Italy. In 1807 he became professor of perspective at the Royal Academy and in 1845 he was appointed deputy president.
Turner’s early paintings were predominantly watercolors of landscapes. By the late 1790s he had begun exhibiting oil paintings, eventually transferring to his oils the same vibrancy of color that had proved so successful in his watercolors. His mature work falls into three periods.
Turner’s first period (1800-1820) is marked by mythological and historical scenes in which the coloring is subdued and details and contours are emphasized. These works show the influence of 17th-century French landscape painter Claude Lorrain, notably in the use of atmospheric effects, as in The Sun Rising Through Vapor. During this period Turner also produced numerous engravings for his unfinished collection Liber Studiorum (1806-1819).
The paintings of his second period (1820-1835) are characterized by more brilliant coloring and by diffusion of light. In two of Turner’s best works, The Bay of Baiae-with Apollo and the Sibyl. his use of light lends radiance to the colors and softens architectural and topographical forms and shadows. During this period Turner also executed a number of illustrations for books on topography and a collection of watercolors depicting Venetian scenes.