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Release Date: September 11, 2007

A Chronology of the Life of J.M.W. Turner

(Printed with permission of Tate Britain)

April 23, 1775
Joseph Mallord William Turner born, Covent Garden, London. Son of William Turner, a barber and wig-maker and Mary Turner (née Marshall).

Hand colours engravings from Boswell’s Picturesque Views of the Antiquities of England and Wales whilst staying with his uncle in Brentford, Middlesex.

Stayed at Margate where Turner made his earliest surviving drawings.

Turner's first signed and dated drawings, mainly copies of prints after other artists, were displayed in his father’s shop window for sale.

Summer 1789
Turner visited his uncle near Oxford and began his first sketchbook. Worked for architect Thomas Hardwick (1752-1829).  Then employed by Thomas Malton, Jnr (1748-1804) as a draughtsman.

December 11, 1789
Admitted as a student of the Royal Academy Schools after one term's probation.

Exhibited first work at the Royal Academy: the watercolour The Archbishop's Palace, Lambeth (Indianapolis Museum of Art).

September, 1791
Stayed with the Narraway family at Bristol who were friends of Turner’s father. Made his first tour of the West Country including Malmesbury, Bath.

June 1792
Turner began his studies in the life class of the Royal Academy.

Summer 1792
Made his first tour of South Wales.

March 27, 1793
Awarded the 'Greater Silver Pallet' by the Royal Society of Arts for landscape drawing.

Autumn 1793
Tour of Kent and Sussex.

First press reviews of Turner’s works shown at the Royal Academy Annual Exhibition. Started to work regularly at Dr Monro's house with Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) copying works by JR Cozens and other artists. Began to take pupils for drawing lessons.

Summer 1794
First tour to the Midland counties of England with a brief journey into North Wales to make watercolours for one of his first engraving commissions for the Copper-Plate Magazine.

Summer 1795
Toured South Wales, followed by a journey to the Isle of Wight. Received further commissions for engravings and private topographical commissions.

Exhibited his first oil painting at the Royal Academy, Fishermen at Sea, (Tate), a view of the coast off the Isle of Wight. Possibly visited Brighton in the summer.

Summer 1797
First extensive tour of the North of England including the Lake District. Visited Harewood House to execute commissions from Edward Lascelles.

April 1798
Sketching tour of Kent. First year that the Royal Academy allowed extracts of poetry to be appended to the titles of paintings in its catalogues

Summer 1798
From Bristol he made an extensive tour through South and North Wales.

November 1798
Decided to give no more drawing lessons.

Visited William Beckford’s (1760-1844) London house to see the Altieri Claudes, recently arrived from Italy.

August–September 1799
At Fonthill, Wiltshire to gather material for a commission from Beckford.

September–October 1799
Tour of Lancashire and North Wales.

October 1799
Visits the home of his friend W.F.Wells at Knockholt in Kent, where he made his first attempt at producing oil studies from nature.

November 4, 1799
Elected an Associate of the Royal Academy.

November/December 1799
Moves to 64, Harley Street, London.

Summer 1800
At Fonthill, Wiltshire. Commissioned to paint a sea piece as a companion to the Duke of Bridgewater’s Van der Velde picture.

December 27, 1800
His mother admitted to the Bethlem Hospital for the insane, where Dr Thomas Monro was physician.

June–August 1801
First tour of Scotland; returned through the Lake District.

February 12, 1802
Elected a full member of the Royal Academy.

July 15 to mid–October, 1802
First tour to the continent.  Travelled to Switzerland via France. Visited the Louvre in Paris and made notes on paintings by Claude, Titian and Poussin.

Becomes involved in building his own gallery in Harley Street. Criticised by George Beaumont and other Academicians for the “lack of finish” in his works.

April 15, 1804
Death of Turner's mother at an asylum.

April 18, 1804
The first display at his newly completed gallery at 64 Harley Street included between twenty and thirty of his own works.

May 1805
Started to rent Syon Ferry House, on the River Thames at Isleworth. 

Summer 1805
Sketched on a boat on the Thames.Exhibited The Shipwreck (Tate) at his own gallery.  This became his first oil to be engraved.

December 1805
Sketched Neslon’s flagship, the Victory as she returned from the Battle of Trafalgar.

Submits two oil paintings to the first exhibition of the British Institution, a rival body to the Royal Academy.

Summer 1806
Stays at Knockholt, Kent, with Wells. With encouragement of his friend Wells, Turner starts the Liber Studiorum. Exhibited The Battle of Trafalgar (Tate) at his own gallery.

Winter 1806
Took a house in Hammersmith, London with a garden on the riverside. He used a summerhouse there as his studio.

June 11, 1807
First part of the Liber Studiorum published.

November 2, 1807
Elected Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy. Exhibited the oil Sun Rising Through Vapour (National Gallery, London) at the Royal Academy. Exhibited Thames oil sketches in his Harley Street gallery.

Summer 1808
Stayed at Tabley, Cheshire, the home of Sir John Leicester (1762-1827). Stayed for the first time at Farnley Hall in Yorkshire, the home of Walter Fawkes (1769-1825), where he was a frequent visitor until Fawkes's death.

Summer 1809
Stays at Petworth House, Sussex, the home of the third Earl of Egremont (1751-1837) to make drawings for a commission. Visited the north of England and Cockermouth Castle, Cumbria in connection with another commission from Lord Egremont.

May 2, 1810
By this date he had changed his address to no. 47 Queen Anne Street West. Visited Sussex in relation to a commission from Jack Fuller, M.P.  for a series of watercolours of Rosehill Park.

January–February 1811
Delivered the first series of six lectures as Professor of Perspective.

July–September 1811
Toured Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset to make drawings for W.B.Cooke's Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England.

In the catalogue for the Royal Academy exhibition, Turner's painting Snow storm: Hannibal and his army crossing the Alps (Tate) was accompanied by the first quotation from his manuscript poem the 'Fallacies of Hope'.  Turner occasionally used extracts from the poem to amplify the titles of his exhibited pictures.

May 1813
Sandycombe Lodge, the home he designed for himself at Twickenham, was completed.  At the Royal Academy Banquet he sat next to Constable, who commented on Turner’s 'wonderful range of mind'.

Summer 1813
Tour of Devon. Made oil sketches from nature.

First four parts of The Picturesque Views on the Southern Coast of England appeared during this year.

Summer 1815
Possibly visited the south coast, including Hastings, to make drawings for the engraving project Views in Sussex.Turner's exhibits at the Royal Academy included Dido building Carthage  (Tate) which he explicitly bequeathed to the national collection (National Gallery, London).

July–September 1816
From his base at Farnley Hall Turner travelled around Yorkshire and the North of England, collecting material for a commission to illustrate Whitaker's History of Richmondshire.

August 10–September 15, 1817
Sailed from Margate to Ostend to make a tour of Belgium (including the battlefield of Waterloo), Holland and the Rhineland. A group of about fifty watercolours resulted from this tour which Turner later sold to Walter Fawkes.

October–November 1818
Visited Edinburgh to discuss the illustrations for The Provincial Antiquities of Scotland by Walter Scott (1771-1832).

November 1818
On his return journey from Scotland he stayed at Farnley, where he completed a number of watercolour views of the house, as well as the watercolour A First-Rate taking in stores (Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford).

January 1819
Last part of the Liber Studiorum published.

April–June 1819
More than sixty of Turner's watercolours from the collection of Walter Fawkes were exhibited at Fawkes's London home.

August–February 1820
First trip to Italy, where he visited Venice, Rome, Naples and Florence.

November 24, 1820
Elected to honorary membership of the Roman Academy of St Luke's through Canova's sponsorship.

His experience of Italy was encapsulated in a painting marking the tercentenary of Raphael's death: Rome from the Vatican. Raffaellle, accompanied by La Fornarina, preparing his Pictures for the Decoration of the Loggia (Tate), exhibited at the Royal Academy.

Summer 1821
Visited Paris and Northern France.

Commissioned by W.B. Cooke to produce designs for an engraving project called Marine Views.

February–August 1822
An exhibition at W.B.Cooke's Gallery in Soho Square which included more than twenty watercolours by Turner.

April 1822
Turner's new gallery opened with a display of unsold earlier works.

August 1822
Travelled to Edinburgh with the intention of recording George IV's state ceremonial visit in a series of paintings.

Publication of the first plates of The Rivers of England. At work on a commission from George IV to paint the Battle of Trafalgar for St James's Palace (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich).

Summer 1824
Began work on the designs for Picturesque Views in England and Wales, a project which occupied much of his time over the next fourteen years.

August–September 1824
First tour of the Rivers Meuse and Mosel, also encompassing Luxembourg and northern France.

Autumn 1824
Journeyed up the east coast of England in search of new material.

December 1824
Last visited Farnley Hall, the home of his patron and friend Walter Fawkes. Probably this year began work on the twelve mezzotints known as the Little Liber.

August 1825
Tour of Holland. The first four watercolours for the Picturesque Views of England and Wales were completed this year.

October 25, 1825
Death of Walter Fawkes.

April 1826
First of the Ports of England mezzotints were published.

August 1826
Visited Normandy, Brittany and the Loire. Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) commissioned him to illustrate the poem Italy. By this date he is acquainted with Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro of Novar (?-1865), the most important patron of the second half of his career.

July–August 1827
Stayed at East Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight, the home of the architect John Nash (1752-1835).  From there he returned via Petworth, the home of the third Earl of Egremont, becoming a regular visitor until 1837.

January 1828
Last series of his six perspective lectures.

August–February 1829
Second visit to Rome, travelling there via Paris, Lyons, Avignon and Florence.

December 18, 1829
A display of his most recent paintings at the Palazzo Trulli, via del Quirinale, Rome, was widely attacked.

February 1829
Returned to England via Turin, Mont Cenis and Mount Tarare.

June–July 1829
The publisher Charles Heath (1785-1848) exhibited thirty-six of the England and Wales watercolours at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly.  Many were acquired by Thomas Griffith (1795-?), who later became Turner's agent.

August–September 1829
Travelled to the Channel Islands, Normandy and Paris. He probably visited the artist Delacroix (1798-1863) during his stay in Paris.

September 21, 1829
Death of Turner's father. This was probably the year that Turner began to stay with Sophia Caroline Booth in her house overlooking the harbour at Margate.  Turner returned for short visits to Margate frequently until late in his life.

Publication of Rogers's Italy.

August–September 1830
Tour of the English Midlands, largely to gather material for the project Picturesque Views in England and Wales.

July–September 1831
Tour of Scotland in search of material to illustrate Scott's Poems, during which trip he visited Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford.

March 1832
Twelve of his illustrations to Scott were exhibited at the Pall Mall galleries of Messrs. Moon, Boys and Graves.

October 1832
Travelled to France collecting material both for his Wanderings by the Seine and for Scott's Life of Napoleon.

First volume of Turner's Annual Tour published: Wanderings by the Loire.

September 1833
Tour to Germany, Austria and Venice.

Publication of Rogers's Poems and the second volume of Turner's Annual Tour (Wanderings by the Seine). Turner's illustrations to Byron were exhibited at Colnaghi's.

September 1834
Turner travelled to Scotland, principally to gather material for various illustrated publications of Sir Walter Scott’s.

October 16 1834
The Houses of Parliament in London were destroyed by fire.  Turner witnessed and sketched the spectacle from a boat on the River Thames, later producing two oil paintings depicting the event.

Last volume of Turner's Annual Tour published, containing the second group of Seine views.

Summer 1835
Tour of Denmark, Germany and Bohemia to study the museums and galleries at Dresden and Berlin.

Summer 1836
Tour of France, Switzerland and the Val d'Aosta with  H.A.J. Munro of Novar.

October 1836
John Ruskin (1819-1900) wrote to Turner proposing to defend him against the attacks appearing in Blackwood's Magazine, but was dissuaded from publishing by the artist.

Winter 1836
Turner suffered poor health.

November 11, 1837
Death of Lord Egremont.

December 28, 1837
Resigned as Professor of Perspective. Publication of Thomas Campbell's Poems, with twenty illustrations by Turner.

Last England and Wales plates published.

Exhibited The Fighting 'Teméraire’ tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838 (National Gallery, London), which was warmly received.

August 1839
Second tour of the Rivers Meuse and Mosel, also completing many studies of Luxembourg

June 22, 1840
The first documented meeting of Turner and Ruskin at the house of Thomas Griffith.

August–October 1840
Travelled to Venice via Germany (the Rhine) and Austria, returning through Ratisbon, Munich and Coburg.

July–October 1841
Visited Switzerland (Constance, Zurich, Lucerne, Thun, Fribourg, Lausanne, Geneva, Berne and Basle).

Winter 1841
Showed his agent Thomas Griffith the first group of specimen subjects of Swiss views from which finished watercolours were to be made on commission.

First group of commissioned watercolours finished including the three Rigis: only nine subjects were commissioned, but he produced ten in all; the last as Griffith's fee.

August–October 1842
A further tour of Switzerland, travelling there via Belgium.

A further six watercolours were commissioned and completed from a proposed ten.

August–November 1843
Visited the Tyrol and North Italy.

Exhibits Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway (National Gallery, London).

August–October 1844
Last visit to Switzerland, from where he returns via Heidelberg and the Rhine.

A further group of ten Swiss watercolours executed.

May, 1845
Brief visit to Boulogne, exploring the coast at Ambleteuse and Wimereaux.

July 14, 1845
As the eldest Royal Academician, Turner was appointed Acting President during the illness of Sir Martin Archer Shee (1769-1850). Planned a further visit to Switzerland but was prevented from undertaking the journey due to ill-health.

September–October 1845
Visited Dieppe and the coast of Picardy, where he was entertained by Louis-Philippe at Eu. The Congress of European Art invited him to contribute a painting to celebrate the opening of the Temple of Art and Industry in Munich.  However, Turner's Walhalla (Tate) was much derided for the 'want of exactness of portraiture in the place represented'. At the Royal Academy, he exhibited the first two of four whaling subjects in oil, Whalers (Tate) and Whalers (Metropolitan Museum, New York).

Under the assumed name of Admiral Booth, he began to live at 6 Davis Place, Cremorne New Road in Chelsea. Two more whaling subjects were exhibited at the Royal Academy this year, Hurrah! for the Whaler Erebus! another Fish! (Tate) and Whalers (Boiling Blubber) entangled in Flaw Ice, endeavouring to extricate Themselves (Tate).

For the first year since 1824, Turner did not exhibit at the Royal Academy. Employed Francis Sherell as his studio assistant.

Declined a request from the Society of Arts for a retrospective exhibition of his works because of 'a peculiar inconvenience this year'.

His last new oil paintings were shown at the Royal Academy, but he continued working in watercolour.

December 19, 1851
Turner died at his home in Chelsea aged 76. His body was buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral on 30 December.

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