Saturday, January 30, 2010
J.M.W. Turner, by Peter Ackroyd
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 mother's family were butchers. He began drawing quite young and, having initially apprenticed with an architect, entered the Royal Academy when he was only fourteen years old.
This little volume is jam-packed with information about Turner's rise to the top of the artistic heap, how he worked and taught, his techniques, his rivalries. He seems always to have been working. Ackroyd cites a comment made by a fellow traveler in Italy, who, not knowing who his traveling companion was, described Turner as "continually popping his head out of the window to sketch whatever strikes his fancy."
It's also the story of his personal life; although he never married, he was a great one for the ladies and had more than one long-term relationship. His mother is believed to have died insane, but he was very close to his father, who lived with him and worked as his assistant.
This is quite a good little introduction to both Turner and his work.