Joseph Mallord William Turner RA (1775 – 1851) was an English Romantic painter, printmaker and watercolourist, known for his expressive colourisation, imaginative landscapes and turbulent, often violent marine paintings.
He was born in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, to a modest lower middle-class family. He lived in London all his life, retaining his Cockney accent and assiduously avoiding the trappings of success and fame. A child prodigy, Turner studied at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1789, enrolling when he was 14, and exhibited his first work there at 21. During this period, he also served as an architectural draftsman. Thereafter he earned a steady income from commissions and sales, which due to his troubled, contrary nature, were often begrudgingly accepted. He opened his own gallery in 1804 and became professor of perspective at the Academy in 1807, where he lectured until 1828, although he was viewed as profoundly inarticulate. He traveled to Europe from 1802, typically returning with voluminous sketchbooks.
Turner was an intensely private, eccentric and reclusive man. He was a controversial figure throughout his career; he did not marry, but fathered two daughters, Eveline (1801–1874) and Georgiana (1811–1843), by his housekeeper Sarah Danby. He became more pessimistic and morose as he got older, especially after the death of his father, after which his life deteriorated, and his gallery fell into disrepair and neglect. He lived in poor health from 1845, dying in London in 1851 aged seventy-six. He is buried in Saint Paul's Cathedral, London.