J. M. W. Turner
Joseph Mallord William Turner in quotes. William Turner, RA (baptised 14 May 1775 – 19 December 1851) was a British Romantic landscape painter, water-colourist, and printmaker. Turner was considered a controversial figure in his day, but is now regarded as the artist who elevated landscape painting to an eminence rivalling history painting.
Quotes of Turner
1800 - 1820
- sorted chronologically, by date of the quote
- Well, Gaffer [his early friend Mr. Wells, artist] I see there will be no peace till I comply; so give me a piece of paper. There, now, rule the size for me, and tell me what I am to do. [Mr. Wells told him: 'Well divide your subject into classes, say: Pastoral, Marine, Elegant Pastoral, and so forth..']
- Quote, 1806?; told by Mr Wells' daughter, Mrs. Wheeler; included in The life of J.M.W. Turner, Volume II, George Walter Thornbury; Hurst and Blackett Publishers, London, 1862, p. 55
- the first drawings for the publication of Turners's famous print-collection Liber Studiorum started then and Mrs. Wheeler as a young girl sat by his side while Turner was making those drawings, and a few years later she have gone out many times, sketching with Turner
- To select, combine and concentrate that which is beautiful in nature and admirable in art is as much the business of the landscape painter in his line as in the other departments of art.
- Turner, c. 1810; as quoted in: Dennis Hugh Halloran (1970) The Classical Landscape Paintings of J.M.W. Turner. p. 75
- Hawkey - Hawkey [Fawkeses in Yorkshire, friend of Turner] - come here - come here! Look at this thunderstorm! Isn't it grand? - Isn't it wonderful? - Isn't it sublime?. .There, Hawkey; in two years you will see this again, and call it 'Hannibal Crossing the Alps'.
- quote c. 1810; as quoted in 'A brief history of weather in European landscape art', John E. Thornes, in Weather Volume 55, Issue 10 Oct. 2000, p. 368
- The sky effects in the 'Hannibal' painting of Turner (Tate Gallery, No. 490) he finished in 1812, were supposedly seen by Turner in Yorkshire whilst visiting his friends the Fawkeses, (Tate Gallery 1975)
- In our variable climate where [all] the seasons are recognizable in one day, where all the vapoury turbulence involves the face of things, where nature seems to sport in all: her dignity and dispensing incidents for the artist’s study.. ..how happily is the landscape painter situated, how roused by every change in nature in every moment, that allows no languor even in her effects which she places before him, and demands most peremptorily every moment his admiration and investigation, to store his mind with every change of time and place.
- from his lectures, 1811; as quoted in Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Andrew Wilton; London: Academy Editions, 1979; as quoted in 'A brief history of weather in European landscape art', John E. Thornes, in Weather Volume 55, Issue 10 Oct. 2000, p. 367-368
- In 1811 Turner gave his first lectures as Professor of Perspective; in one of the lectures he spoke of the advantages of the British climate for landscape artists
1820 - 1851
- Painting can never show her nose in company with architecture without being snubbed.
- c. 1840; quoted by Charles Rob Leslie Vol. 1, (1860), p. 208; as quoted in The Life of J. M. W. Turner - Founded on Letters and Papers Furnished by His Friends and Fellow Academicians, Walter Thornbury; Cambridge University Press, 2013, p. 244
- Turner's remark in the 1840's, when the new built Houses of Parliament in London were to be decorated with pictures
- He John Ruskin knows a great deal more about my pictures than I do; he puts things into my head, and points out meanings in them that I never intended.
- If I could find anything blacker than black, I'd use it.
- Turner, c. 1842-43; quoted in: Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1879) The Life of J. M. W. Turner, R. A. p. 296
- his reply after the prominent English marine painter Clarkson Stanfield had complained, that Turner in his painting 'Peace - Burial at Sea' - he painted after the burial of his artist-friend David Wilkie - had painted the sails in the steamer as black as possible
- Dear Sir, - I have truly, I must say, written three times, and now hesitate; for did I know your son's works, or, as you say, his gifted merits yet even then I would rather advise you to think well, and not be carried away by the admiration which any friendly hopes (which ardent friends to early talent) may assume: they know not the difficulties or the necessities of the culture of the Fine Arts generally speaking. In regard to yourself, it is you alone can judge how far you are inclined to support him during perhaps a long period of expense; and particularly if you look towards tuition, the more so; for it cannot insure success (however much it may facilitate practice), and therefore it behooves you to weigh well the means in your power before you embark in a profession which requires more care, assiduity, and perseverance than any person can guarantee.
- In a letter 4 Dec. 1848 to James Astbury Hammersley; as quoted in The life of J.M.W. Turner, Volume II, George Walter Thornbury; Hurst and Blackett Publishers, London, 1862, pp. 115-16
- James Astbury Hammersley, himself an artist and art-teacher, wrote Turner to ask him to give his son further instructions in painting
- Dear Hawkesworth, Mother Goose came to a rehearsal before Christmas day, having arrived on Saturday for the knife.. .Many thanks for the brace of pheasants and hares—by the same train—indeed, I think it fortunate, for with all the strife and strike of pokers and stokers for the railroads - their commons every day growing worse - in shareholders and directors squabbling about the winding up the last Bill, to come to some end for those lines known or supposed to be in difficulty.. .I am sorry to say my health is much on the wain. I cannot bear the same fatigue, or have the same bearing against it, I formerly had - but time and tide stop not - but I must stop writing for today..
- in his letter to Mr. Hawkesworth, 24 December, 1849; as quoted in The life of J.M.W. Turner, Volume II, George Walter Thornbury; Hurst and Blackett Publishers, London, 1862, pp. 90-91
- indistinctness is my forte.
- From: Walter Thornbury. The Life of J.M.W. Turner,: ... Founded on Letters and Papers Furnished by His Friends and Fellow Academicians. By Walter Thornbury. In Two Volumes, Volume 2. (1862), p. 243
- More full text:
"Unfortunately I met mr. Turner at the Academy a night or two after I received this letter; and he asked me if I had heard from Mr. Lennox. I was obliged to say ' yes.' ' Well, and how does he like the picture?' 'He thinks it indistinct.' ' You should tell him,' he replied, ' that indistinctness is my forte.'
- It is necessary to mark the greater from the lesser truth: namely the larger and more liberal idea of nature from the comparatively narrow and confined; namely that which addresses itself to the imagination from that which is solely addressed to the eye.
- Quoted in: Eric Shanes (2012) The Life and Masterworks of J.M.W. Turner, p. 23
- My business is to paint what I see, not what I know is there.
- Turner, quoted in: Donald B. MacCulloch (1927) The Wondrous Isle of Staffa, p. 160
- Alternative quote:
My job is to paint what I see, not what I know
- As quoted in: George Seferis (1999) A Poet's Journal: Days of 1945-1951. p. 105
Quotes about Turner
- sorted chronologically, by date of the quote
- 'One stormy day at Farnley, Turner called to me loudly from the doorway: 'Hawkey - Hawkey! - come here - come here! Look at this thunderstorm! Isn't it grand? - Isn't it wonderful? - Isn't it sublime?' All this time he was making notes of its form and colour on the back of a letter. I proposed some better drawing-block, but he said it did very well. He was absorbed - he was entranced. There was a storm rolling and sweeping and shafting out its lightning over the Yorkshire hills. Presently the storm passed, and he finished. 'There', said he, 'Hawkey; in two years you will see this again, and call it 'Hannibal Crossing the Alps'.
- quote of Turner, c. 1810; as quoted in 'A brief history of weather in European landscape art', John E. Thornes, in Weather Volume 55, Issue 10 Oct. 2000, p. 368
- The sky effects in the 'Hannibal' painting of Turner (Tate Gallery, No. 490) he finished in 1812, were supposedly seen by Turner in Yorkshire, visiting his friends the Fawkeses, (Tate Gallery 1975)
- It [the painting Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps ] is so ambiguous as to be scarcely intelligible in some parts (and those the principal), yet as a whole, it is novel and affecting.
- John Constable, in a letter to his future wife Maria, 1812; as quoted in: 'A brief history of weather in European landscape art', John E. Thornes, in Weather Volume 55, Issue 10 Oct. 2000, p. 368
- Constable's quote after visiting the exhibited painting of Turner, in a letter to his future wife Maria about Turner's famous landscape-painting (Tate Gallery, No. 490) - The storm effects in this painting are typical of many of Turner's skies, according to John E. Thornes
- ..he [Turner] sat at the table [in Farnley ], tearing up the sea with his eagle-claw of a thumb-nail, and working like a madman; yet the detail is full and delicate, betraying no sign of hurry.
- quote c. 1816 by one of the Fawkes children; as recorded by Edith Mary Fawkes, typescript in the Library of the National Gallery, London; see also Robert Yardley, 'First Rate Taking in Stores', in Oxford Companion, pp.109–10
- wherever he [Turner] could get a few minutes, he had his little sketch book out, many being remarkable, but he seemed to tire at last and got careless.. .I don't remember colouring coming out till we got into Switzerland. [When it did, Turner used a sponge to create 'misty and aerial effects'].
- Mr. Turner only displayed in the closest intimacy the shrewdness of his observation and the playfulness of his wit. Everywhere he kept back much of what was in him, and while the keenest intelligence, mingled with a strong tinge of satire, animated his brisk countenance, it seemed to amuse him to be but half understood. His nearest social ties were those formed in the Royal Academy, of which he was by far the oldest member, and to whose interest he was most warmly attached.
- The zealous care with which Turner endeavoured to do his duty, is proved by a large existing series of drawings, exquisitely tinted, and often completely coloured, all by his own hand, of the most difficult perspective subjects—illustrating not only directions of line, but effects of light - with a care and completion which would put the work of any ordinary teacher to utter shame. In teaching generally — he would neither waste time nor spare it - he would look over a student's drawing at the Academy, point to a defective part, make a scratch on the paper at the side, say nothing. If the student saw what was wanted, and did it, Turner was delighted; but if the student could not follow. Turner left him.
- On one occasion [1840's] I had the audacity to ask him [Turner] if he painted his clouds from nature.. .The words had hardly passed my lips when I saw my gaucherie. I was afraid I bad roused a thunderstorm; however, my lucky star predominated.. ..after having eyed me for a few moments with a slight frown, he growled out 'How would you have me paint them?' Then seizing upon his fishing-rod, and turning upon his heel, he marched indignantly out of the house to the water's-edge.
- Mr. Rose, of Jersey [old friend of Turner], c. 1860; as quoted in The life of J.M.W. Turner, Volume II, George Walter Thornbury; Hurst and Blackett Publishers, London, 1862, p. 95
- After plunging them into water, he [Turner] dropped the colours onto the paper while it was wet, making marblings and gradations throughout.. .His completing process was marvellously rapid, for he indicated his masses and incidents, took out half-lights, scraped out high-lights and dragged, hatched and stippled until the design was finished. This swiftness, grounded in the scale practice in early life, enabled Turner to preserve the purity and luminosity of his work, and to paint at a prodigiously rapid rate.
- as the painter James Orrock remembered being told by one of Turner's colleagues; as quoted by B. Webber, James Orrock, R.I., London 1903, pp.60-61; as quoted by David Blayney Brown in 'Draughtsman and Watercolourist' 
- quote about Turner's fast way of working in watercolor-painting in the 1820-30's, including working on several subjects at a time
- Turner was much more interested in the interplay between the atmosphere and sunlight and how he could use this to heighten the effects of his landscapes and seascapes. John Constable rarely painted the atmosphere at all but concentrated on the clouds and the sky. The visibility in Constable's landscapes is nearly always very good, such that the horizon can be clearly seen; he rarely painted mist or fog. Turner on the other hand delighted in mist and fog which often blot out the horizon and sky in his paintings.
- John E. Thornes, in 'A brief history of weather in European landscape art', in Weather Volume 55, Issue 10 Oct. 2000, p. 368