Joseph Mallord Willam Turner

The English artist Joseph Mallord Willam Turner (1775-1851) was born in 1775 in the Covent Garden district of London where his father was a barber and wig maker. Even as a boy he showed an exceptional talent for drawing and painting.

In 1785, when his only sister Mary was taken seriously ill, his mother's mental health started to deteriorate, and he was sent to live for several months with his uncle, a butcher in Brentford, a coaching town on the River Thames south west of London. While he was there, Turner's talent was encouraged by his uncle and he spent a lot of time by the Thames painting and sketching.

By the age of 20 he had established his own studio and his work was in demand.Turner's sister died in 1786 and his mother never recovered, eventually dying in a mental institution in 1804. The tragedy drew Turner and his father closer together and they shared a home for many years until his father's death in 1829. Turner did not marry but had two children by Sarah Danby in 1801 and 1811.

In 1804,he rented Sion Ferry House on the Thames at Isleworth, a village just upriver from Brentford from where he took regular boat trips up the river as far as Oxford. Again these trips informed and inspired his work.

To link in with celebrations of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year, Catherine Parry-Wingfield will talk on 'Turner's Royal Connections - from Queen Dido to Napoleon'. This lecture takes a broad sweep from Turner's fascination with the ancient Carthaginian empire, for which - surprisingly - he took inspiration from the Thames landscape around Richmond and Twickenham, to the contemporary subject of Napoleon, whose wars and ambitions deeply affected life in England.Soane's architecture influenced Turner's design for his house in Twickenham.