As the new Turner Contemporary gallery opens in Margate, Kent we take a close look at its namesake Turner who painted in the town and descried the skies there as "the loveliest in all Europe".

Turner is perhaps the best-loved and one of the best known English Romantic artist’s. He became known as 'the painter of light', because of his increasing interest in brilliant colours as the main constituent in his landscapes and seascapes. His works include water colours, oils and engravings.

Turner's talent was recognised early in his life and he entered the Royal Academy at aged 15. English art critic John Ruskin who championed Turners work described him as the artist who could most "stirringly and truthfully measure the moods of Nature."

His early work was inspired by 17th-century Dutch artists such as Willem van der Velde, and by the Italianate landscapes of Claude and Richard Wilson. But Turner moved on from this formal style to create his own distinctive style of painting.

Turner's main purpose was not to depict a specific place but to explore the nature of the sea under a changing sky, or capture the sense of speed and movement through a landscape. He used watercolour technique with oil paint to create lightness, fluency, and ephemeral atmospheric effects. In his later years he used oils ever more transparently, and turned to an evocation of almost pure light by use of shimmering colour.

A good example of his later style can be seen in Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway, where the objects are barely recognizable, among the intensity of hue and interest in evanescent light. Later in his career Turner became well known for submitting unfinished work to the Royal academy exhibitions, but his style was also challenging the conventions of how you could tell a piece was finished making work that was so fluid and loose it would be hard to say if it was finished or not.

Controversial in his own day Turner had left a lasting legacy not only in English art but also to the emergence of modern art, for examples the Impressionists, and in particular Claude Monet, carefully studied and were influenced by his techniques. Turner has remained to this day a major figure of the art establishment and The Fighting Temeraire was voted the UK’s greatest paintings in a 2005 poll.

Turner Contemporary is now open
Margate, Kent CT9 1, UK
Tue – Sun: 10.00 – 19.00