J.M.W. Turner (Joseph Mallord William Turner), The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons

J.M.W. Turner (1775 - 1851): Romanticism (c. 1800 - 1850s)

Joseph Mallord William Turner, commonly known as J.M.W. Turner, was a prolific English painter and one of the most prominent figures of the Romantic movement. Born in 1775 in Covent Garden, London, he would go on to become renowned for his innovative and atmospheric landscapes that captured the essence of nature's raw power and the sublime. Turner's artistic journey, family background, education, and unique style mark him as an influential figure in the history of art.

Early Life and Family Background

Turner was born to a lower-middle-class family, with his father working as a barber and wig-maker. His early aptitude for drawing led him to enroll at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1789, where he honed his skills and gained exposure to the prevailing artistic trends of his time. He showed immense talent at an early age, which would eventually set him on the path to becoming one of the most celebrated painters of his era.

Education and Training

Under the guidance of prominent artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds, Turner developed his technical skills and honed his understanding of classical art. His early works showcased his proficiency in watercolor and oil painting techniques. As he progressed, Turner's distinct artistic vision began to emerge, setting him apart from his contemporaries.

Artistic Style and Romanticism

J.M.W. Turner's art style is closely associated with the Romantic movement, which emphasized emotion, imagination, and a connection to nature. His landscapes often portrayed dramatic scenes, awe-inspiring natural phenomena, and the interplay of light and color. Turner's innovative use of light and atmospheric effects created a sense of ethereal beauty that stirred deep emotions in his viewers.

20 Notable Artworks

1. Fishermen at Sea (1796)

A moonlit scene of fishermen battling the sea's turbulent waves, showcasing Turner's early mastery of light and atmosphere.

2. The Slave Ship (1840)

Depicting a harrowing scene of a ship in a storm, with slaves being thrown overboard, this painting addresses social and political themes of its time.

3. Rain, Steam, and Speed - The Great Western Railway (1844)

A dynamic portrayal of a locomotive racing across a bridge, capturing the energy of the industrial age and its impact on the natural landscape.

4. The Fighting Temeraire (1839)

A poignant scene of an aging warship being towed to its final berth, symbolizing the end of an era and the passage of time.

5. Snow Storm: Hannibal and His Army Crossing the Alps (1812)

An expressive depiction of a snowstorm, capturing the intensity of nature's forces and the resilience of humanity.

6. Dido Building Carthage (1815)

Combining historical and mythological themes, this painting portrays the foundation of Carthage with vibrant colors and intricate details.

7. The Burning of the Houses of Parliament (1834)

A dramatic scene of the iconic London landmark engulfed in flames, showcasing Turner's ability to capture intense moments in history.

8. Venice, from the Porch of Madonna della Salute (1835)

A serene and atmospheric view of Venice, highlighting Turner's skill in capturing the interplay of light, water, and architecture.

9. The Blue Rigi, Sunrise (1842)

A breathtaking depiction of a mountainous landscape during sunrise, exemplifying Turner's ability to evoke powerful emotions through light and color.

10. Norham Castle, Sunrise (1845)

A tranquil scene of a castle at dawn, embodying Turner's fascination with capturing the effects of light and the passage of time.

11. Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight (1835)

A nocturnal scene of laborers unloading coal from a ship, showcasing Turner's ability to infuse ordinary subjects with poetic beauty.

12. Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth (1842)

Another dramatic snowstorm painting, this work captures the chaos and power of nature in the midst of a maritime setting.

13. Sunrise with Sea Monsters (1845)

A fantastical scene of sea monsters emerging from the waves at sunrise, blending mythology with Turner's signature atmospheric effects.

14. Chichester Canal (1828)

A serene depiction of a canal scene, demonstrating Turner's versatility in capturing both tranquil and dynamic moments in nature.

15. Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus (1829)

A mythological painting showing Ulysses taunting the Cyclops, revealing Turner's interest in ancient narratives and dramatic storytelling.

16. The Grand Canal, Venice (1835)

An exquisite portrayal of Venice's Grand Canal, showcasing Turner's ability to create intricate and harmonious compositions.

17. The Sun of Venice Going to Sea (1843)

A captivating depiction of a sunrise over the Venetian lagoon, capturing the ephemeral beauty of light and water.

18. Van Tromp Going About to Please His Masters (1844)

A maritime scene depicting a Dutch ship maneuvering in the wind, showcasing Turner's affinity for capturing the dynamism of the sea.

19. The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (1840)

It portrays the fiery and chaotic destruction of the British Parliament, conveying the awe-inspiring power of nature and the transitory nature of human institutions.

20. Calais Pier (1803)

A poignant scene of a ship departing for England, featuring a moving depiction of human emotions and the vastness of the sea.


J.M.W. Turner's contributions to the world of art are immeasurable. His ability to capture the sublime beauty of nature, his innovative use of light and atmosphere, and his exploration of emotional depth have left an indelible mark on the art world. Turner's paintings continue to inspire and resonate with viewers, inviting us to contemplate the awe-inspiring power of both nature and the human spirit.


Shop with us

Back to blog