Wilson Online Reference
Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775-1851
Connection to Wilson
Biographical Details
One of the famous Romantic English landscape and history painters, Turner was born near Covent Garden in London and entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1789. His earliest works form part of the 18th century topographical watercolour tradition. In 1796 he turned to oil painting and was soon inspired by 17th century Dutch artists such as Willem van der Velde and by the Italianate landscapes of Claude and Richard Wilson. He went on to become a successful if controversial Royal Academician from 1802.

Turner explicitly stated his debt to Wilson - he sought out Wilson's birthplace at Penegoes in the shadow of Cader Idris and in the 1790s he retraced the places in Wales that Wilson had painted. Turner's Royal Academy diploma picture was a deliberate act of homage to Wilson, depicting one of his most celebrated sites, Dolbadarn Castle, deep in the heart of Snowdonia. Turner himself said that he walked 'in the footsteps of Wilson' around Wales (Turner and Europe 2014, p. 30). Although he did not include Wilson in the account of the development of landscape in his famous 'Backgrounds' lecture given as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy in 1811, he did comment on the neglect the artist had suffered in his lifetime, also making it clear that the very seriousness of Wilson's conception of landscape led to that neglect (Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 152 and n. 16). Turner owned and copied more than one painting by or ascribed to Wilson, such as Tivoli: Temple of the Sibyl and the Roman Campagna (Tate N05538) and possibly P178A The Falls of Niagara He paid homage to Wilson in such works as Aeneas and the Sibyl, Lake Avernus (Tate N00463). In the 1790s and later Wilson's pictures provided him with a canonical model for classicising and historical landscape.

Collector's mark: Lugt 1498 (prints)