Joseph Mallord William Turner

Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in 1775 in London and was a British painter, printmaker and water-colourist. Turner studied at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1789, enrolling when he was 14, and exhibited his first work there at age 15. He had an expansive art career producing 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolours, and 30,000 works on paper across his life time. Turner was inspired by natural landscapes and changes in the weather, sunlight, storm, rain, and fog, as well as the power of the sea with ship wrecks often featuring in his work. Washes of colour would be applied in his watercolour works to build atmosphere and energy and he was often celebrated for his ability to capture the mood and light in a scene.

Joseph Mallord William Turner’s (1775-1851) Storm at the Mouth of the Grand Canal, Venice, c. 1840

Browsing through the many examples of turners work I settled upon the above example. I was particularly drawn to the use of colour in this painting and the warmth, it feels like a warm summer evening with the sun setting over the grand canal. In response to Turner’s work ‘Storm at the Mouth of the Grand Canal, Venice’ I created my own watercolour, trying to capture the sense of light and drama that Turner captures so beautifully.

I tried to build the work using subtle layers of water colour and then bleeding in some stronger pigments, especially for the hatching marks and stronger lines of blue and terracotta. It was a useful exercise in trying to paint more freely with watercolour which I think was enabled by the nature of the scene in the pillowy sky and fluid waters beneath. Although comparing the works I think I perhaps could have taken my time a bit more with this exercise and built up the layers even more gradually to produce a more subtle finish.

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