The Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A

The Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A

The Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A

The Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A


After devoting more than thirty years to the study of Turner's life and works, the author, A. J. Finberg, died on March 15, 1939, some weeks before the first edition of this biography was published. His widow, an art historian of distinction in her own right, kept an exact record of all fresh information which came to hand or could be elicited by careful research; but she died on December 3, 1958, leaving still in manuscript the very numerous corrigenda and addenda she had been at pains to collect. This new material is embodied partly in the text, partly in the Appendix and Supplement (pp. 456-516) of the present edition, which thus brings up to date what has long been recognized as the standard Life of England's greatest landscape painter.



THE foundations of this Chronicle were laid in 1904, when Mr. Hawes Turner, who was then Keeper and Secretary of the National Gallery, allowed me to explore the contents of the eleven large deed-boxes in which what had come to be regarded as 'the waste-paper basket' of Turner's workshop had been preserved from the eyes of the profane for nearly fifty years. This mass of material consisted of practically the complete series of sketch-books and note-books Turner had used between his fourteenth and seventy-first years; also of a large number of sketches and studies for many of his completed works. Unfortunately the whole collection was in a state of appalling disorder.

In the following year the far-seeing Keeper induced the Trustees of the Gallery to decide that an attempt should be made to arrange and catalogue this material, and I was invited to undertake the work. The only useful system of arrangement I could adopt was to classify it, together with the exhibited drawings, in chronological order. In the course of the four years devoted to this task I realized to the full what a pitiful modicum of fact was contained in the monstrous quantity of words that had been written about Turner. The provisional arrangement I succeeded in making was mainly the result of an intensive study of the material itself.

This unique and vast collection of documents has enabled me to construct a framework of unimpeachable veracity into which the information . . .

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