Joseph Mallord William Turner | The Victoria Art Gallery

Joseph Mallord William Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Bath Abbey

1775-1851. Joseph Mallord William Turner was one of the most celebrated landscape painters of the 19th century. He trained with Thomas Malton, a draughtsman who produced very popular prints of London, Bath and other popular cities around the country. Malton is well represented in the Gallery’s collection, and Turner described him as his ‘real master’.

Turner started exhibiting pictures at the Royal Academy in London in 1790 when he was just 15. He visited Bath for the first time a year later, and made several more visits. The Gallery has one work by Turner, an early watercolour painted before 1793, which shows Bath Abbey. Turner was fascinated by the romantic and picturesque character of old buildings, and would have seen the Abbey as an ideal subject.

The watercolour shows the influence of Malton in the cool colours used, and the dramatic low viewpoint, as well as influence from his friend Thomas Girtin, another celebrated watercolourist. This work shows Turner becoming more confident in his work. From the 1790s onwards he developed great technical skills and processes which he used to create the highly atmospheric work for which he is so well known.

The painting also shows the house in which Gainsborough lived in his early years in Bath, just thirty years before Turner arrived. It is the one to the right of the Abbey.

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